*This is a joint media release from the NFF and Regional TechHub.
From today, regional Australians can access free, independent advice on the best internet and mobile phone connection for their work, study and lifestyle needs.
The Regional Tech Hub, which builds on the valuable services delivered by volunteer organisation Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) was launched today in Canberra.
Regional Tech Hub Manager Jenna Widdison said the Hub was the one-stop-shop to troubleshoot questions like ‘what type of internet connection is available to me,’; ‘how much data do I need?’ and ‘does that tree or shed, impact my connection quality?’
“Knowing what internet connection is available to you and which one is best suited to your needs, can be complex for many regional people,” Ms Widdison said.
“Sometimes what works for your neighbour, won’t necessarily deliver the connectivity you need and often a connection can be greatly enhanced with a small tweak or with a new piece of basic equipment.”
The Regional Tech Hub includes a website housing a range of information to help people understand their connection options, troubleshoot faults and improve their connection experience.
The RTH delivers on the recommendations of a 2018 independent expert review of telecommunications experiences in the bush and is an initiative of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
The Hub was developed and is managed by the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
NFF President Fiona Simson said the NFF was excited to be implementing the Regional TechHub, working in partnership with ACCAN.
“The Regional Tech Hub is a much needed resource, which will provide up to date, relevant information to help regional people have the best possible internet and phone experience with the aim of putting them on an equal footing with their city counterparts” Ms Simson said.
“The Regional Tech Hub staff – who have a wealth of experience in IT, regionalcommunications and customer service – are available to provide one-on-one assistance via phone, email or social media.
ACCAN Chief Executive Teresa Corbin said the Hub was a timely initiative that recognised the essential nature of telecommunications services and the unique operating environment in regional Australia.
“Connectivity is an increasingly important part of life – for social connectedness, operating a business and accessing health and education and government services.
“This is particularly important for people in rural and remote areas of Australia, who are often quite geographically isolated.
“We know that providing tailored information and technical support, and assistance with escalating issues with telecommunications providers, can go a long way to bridging this gap” Ms Corbin said.
As a resident of a small town in regional NSW, Regional Tech Hub Manager Jenna Widdison knows only too well how challenging connectivity can be for those in the bush.
“Regional Australia is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.
“As someone who works remotely and having operated my own small business in digital marketing tailored for regional businesses, I know how fundamental good connectivity is,” Ms Widdison said.
“However, for many people in regional areas the world of telecommunications services and providers is confusing and complicated to navigate.
“This can be a major source of frustration and can lead to people settling for a broadband or phone connection that doesn’t meet their needs, without fully understanding their options.
Ms Simson said regional Australia owed a debt to the tireless efforts of the BIRRR volunteers, who had filled the gap in providing independent, tailored advice and technical support for more than six years.
“I take my hat off to the volunteers at BIRRR, and hope that with the Hub now up and running, built on the grassroots model they pioneered, they will be freed up to turn their considerable skills and energy to other important causes,” Ms Simson said.