LETTER: Jerangle Road and mobile phones

EDITOR: In writing about the recent horror crash on Jerangle Road and the issue of mobile phone reception, Member for Monaro John Barilaro is being deliberately misleading in an attempt to score cheap political points ("Appeal over deadly roads", Express February 19).

Since the Howard government chose to privatise Telstra, the federal government does not own a mobile phone carrier. The mobile phone carriers are commercial companies - they decide where to put their networks based on where they will make a profit. The Government cannot simply direct a private company on where to invest.

Mr Barilaro is perhaps unaware that the Government has previously made funding available to encourage mobile carriers to expand their coverage into areas that are not commercially viable.

I regularly meet with Telstra's Regional Manager, Chris Taylor, to discuss how regional services may be extended or improved. During the term of this government, 13 additional mobile towers have been established in the region. There is nothing preventing Mr Barilaro from having similar discussions with Mr Taylor. To my knowledge he has not done so.

The rollout of the Gillard government's National Broadband Network will see the construction of many new fixed wireless towers in the less populated areas around cities and towns.

Not only will this mean a quantum leap in the quality of services available outside our capital cities, but it also provides mobile carriers with an opportunity to use these towers to improve their mobile phone coverage in regional areas. The government is encouraging NBN Co and mobile carriers to work together to take advantage of the fixed wireless network to improve mobile coverage.

Australia is a very big country, so there are always going to be large parts of the country where you cannot get a good mobile phone signal.

In areas that are sparsely populated or have little passing traffic, often the only commercially viable option for mobile phone services is via satellite.

Unlike terrestrial mobile coverage, satellite mobile phone services cover the entire Australian landmass and population, and are available from a number of providers.

Satellite mobile telephony is particularly important for use in emergencies.

The government's Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme makes satellite mobile phone handsets more affordable for people living, working and travelling to regional and remote areas of Australia.

For further information visit www.dbcde.gov.au/satphone or contact the scheme administrator on 1800 674 058 or via email at satphone@dbcde.gov.au.

Dr Mike Kelly

Member for Eden-Monaro

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