Press Release Government moves to ‘blackout the bush’ with 3.6 gigahertz spectrum fire sale

Wireless Internet Service Provider Association of Australia

Government moves to ‘blackout the bush’ with 3.6 gigahertz spectrum fire sale
November 24, 2017

The Wireless Internet Services Providers Association of Australia (WISP-AU) condemns the Government’s move next week to approve the sell-off of spectrum critical to the future growth of regional Australian farmers and small business.

It also condemns the ACMA’s move, asking Minister for Communications and Arts, Mitch Fifield, to hand over to the government agency new powers, allowing its Secretary to make decisions like the selling off of regional Australia’s digital infrastructure without the fear of any Ministerial or Parliamentary oversight or scrutiny.

The fire sale of regional Australia’s only 5G compatible 3.6 gigahertz spectrum which the ACMA will ask Minister Fifield to approve before the end of the year is expected to result in:
 even slower internet speeds, more unreliable services and higher costs to consumers for the next decade until 7g arrives;
 latest ‘5g’ tractors and other farm equipment not working in Australia;
 a greater digital divide between the city and the bush and coast;
 a communications blackout of the bush ensuring jobs opportunities from an emerging digital economy go begging in the bush;
 NBN being rendered useless when 7g arrives. Creating a further waste of tax-payers money; and
 further implications include potential future national security and sovereign resource issues, unemployment and market disruptions in regional Australia.

WISP-AU has provided the ACMA and Government with an alternative plan which would allow Regional Australia to move seamlessly to a ‘shared or dynamic’ spectrum model’. The plan requires the Government to invest with the private sector in a short pilot program, which would utilise the expertise of Government, Regional ISPs, Telstra, telecommunications engineers and project managers to produce the data required to ensure a long-term solution to regional Australia’s poor digital experience.

The alternative plan is estimated by WISP-AU to cost taxpayers much less to install and maintain than NBN, will compete in the future with 7g, keeping investment dollars in Australia and allow government to significantly reduce spending on the NBN and to step-out-of-the-way. The industry body’s call for the roll-out of a ‘shared or dynamic’ spectrum model has been supported by Microsoft Australia and Cambium Networks in submissions to ACMA. Their expert opinion has also been ignored by the ACMA.

WISP-AU President, Michael Parnell, said the consequences of the Government’s sale of the 3.6 gigahertz spectrum band would be even poorer and less reliable services for the country’s 8.8 million non-metropolitan residents for the next decade.

“The Government seems to be so pre-occupied same-sex marriage and the citizenship sagas, it has forgotten about the bush and is prepared to give up the spectrum it needs to do business,” Mr Parnell said.
“WISP-AU believes the real aim of the ACMA’s exercise is to deliver legislation that would make the government agency not accountable to Parliament and to protect a slow and expensive NBN from competition by removing 5G by stealth.

“We also believe the sale is an attempt to underwrite a small proportion of debt that NBN has accumulated. NBN Chief Bill Morrow confirmed this when he recently admitted the NBN model might never return an investment to tax-payers and that he wanted government to legislate against competition from 5g to protect NBN. The fire sale means the bush won’t have high-speed internet until 7g comes into play in to a decade or so and taxpayers will be forced to continue to spend on this failed NBN experiment.”

WISP-AU represents more than 40 wireless Internet Service Providers connecting more than 200,000 households with around 800,000 regional Australians to the internet. It also provides small businesses, universities and schools with this vital service. As well as carriers, the organisation includes a partnership with global wireless technology corporation, Cambium Networks.

Media Contact for interviews: WISP-AU Secretary and ISP owner Lynda Summers 0428 276 412.

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