Communications in regional, rural and Australia has always lagged behind the communications technologies available in metropolitan areas. In response to the growing digital divide that was evident in 2005 the Government mandated that an inquiry be held every three years into ‘the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural, and remote parts of Australia’ . The concerns that were expressed about communications outside of metropolitan areas in the first Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) report are very similar in emphasis to those which are being raised in this latest inquiry: connection and fault repair times for fixed line services and access to affordable broadband services.

Despite the efforts of governments in responding to a succession of RTIRC reports over the past 15 years, there continues to exist a patchwork of broadband connectivity in regional Australia which constrains the activities of businesses both small and large, and the abilities of residents to effectively access systems and services that urban dwellers take for granted – for instance (and highly significant in these past two years) many non-urban students are still unable to effectively participate in home schooling.

Reliable and dependable data communications networks are essential for people and businesses throughout the country. Consumers and businesses must be able to be confident that services will be installed, connected and made available in a predictable timeframe, have predictable and adequate and (importantly) warrantable capability with recourse for rectification if a service does not meet required standards. Once operating, customers must have the confidence that a failed service will be rectified swiftly, or otherwise customers will be forced to waste funds on backup services and secondary capabilities that should not be required. These requirements are even more urgent in non-urban areas where there may not be any viable backup or alternative service, and the travel times to access alternatives are more often prohibitive.