2017 Spring - Getting regional infrastructure right

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FPJ1403D - Freeman, J & Park, S (2017), Broadband Connectivity for Rural Community and Agricultural Development

Digital network technologies aid the socioeconomic prosperity of rural communities, particularly through agricultural innovation to improve productivity and competitiveness. However, internet access is imperative to benefit from the full functionality of digital technologies and connect to wider markets and services. To date, Australia’s national broadband plans have not ensured parity in service provision between urban and rural areas, which results in uneven opportunities based on remoteness and regionality. Forms of connectivity fundamentally shape the activities pursued online and areas with higher quality broadband hold a competitive advantage. Rural users of Australia’s satellite and mobile wireless connections are constrained by limited coverage, unreliability and slow speeds, which are compounded by higher costs, limited consumer choice of providers, and restricted data allowances. These constraints mean the potential of digital technologies for rural socioeconomic development remain largely unrealised. This article argues that rural Australia must be prioritised in broadband infrastructure developments to narrow the digital divide and provide the connectivity necessary to increase rural participation in the digital economy. It suggests greater flexibility in policy would encourage investment in and support for local infrastructure solutions that address different demands and market environments.

FPJ1403D - Freeman, J & Park, S (2017), Broadband Connectivity for Rural Community and Agricultural Development, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, Spring 2017, pp. 19-29, Surry Hills, Australia.

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