Saffin applauds action group for tackling digital divide

A RECENT Parliamentary speech by Lismore MP Janelle Saffin on the digital divide in rural and regional New South Wales has put her in touch with an action group helping isolated communities to access suitable broadband.

A RECENT Parliamentary speech by Lismore MP Janelle Saffin on the digital divide in rural and regional New South Wales has put her in touch with an action group helping isolated communities to access suitable broadband.

During a public interest debate on regional mobile and digital connectivity, Ms Saffin took NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to task for only delivering $50 million of $400 million the Nationals promised in February 2019 for faster mobile and internet coverage in regional New South Wales.

Ms Saffin said health was one area where the digital divide can mean life or death, so for that reason we have to ensure good connections.

“How many times can the Deputy Premier announce this? We have heard announcement after announcement, but we want to see runs on the board. We want to see connectivity.

“All members must work together to ensure that the people of rural and regional New South Wales have strong digital connectivity for jobs, business, health and safety.”

Coverage of the debate found its way into the Information Age as an article titled, “Rural MPs lambast Govt. broadband ‘BS’”, prompting Jon Gough, of the Wamboin Communications Action Group (WCAG), to contact Ms Saffin.

“WCAG has done a lot of good work over some four years and is now in the process of obtaining suitable broadband for their rural community,” Ms Saffin said.

“Their particular focus has been on the Wamboin, Bywong and Sutton region around the ACT, which had a particular satellite NBN allocated to their area and which the local community stated was not fit for purpose for the residents of the area.

“They have focused on obtaining a service that could traverse challenging terrain and how to deliver fibre connectivity to rural areas at a similar price point to that of city residents.

“Their website contains information about WCAG that I found very interesting:  https://sites.google.com/site/wamboincommunications/home

“When I spoke with Jon Gough, he asked me if there any communities in our area which would be interested in receiving assistance from them.

“The WCAG secured an Australian Communications Consumer Action
Network (ACCAN) grant to help them document what they had done and success with the NSW Government.

“The purpose of this is to help other, similar, rural communities get recognised by both government and non-government organisations to deliver suitable, robust, future-proof digital communications.

“WCAG were successful in this endeavour and are now reaching out to find other communities that need assistance in raising their profile such that they are recognised as being in need of assistance.”

Ms Saffin said if there are any groups in the Electorate of Lismore who are interested and have the capacity to work on such a project, please contact her on 0266 213 624 and she shall put them in touch with WCAG.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021.

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