Rural residents are at the centre of a legal stoush over a bid to improve mobile phone coverage, with the Federal Court now asked to intervene in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s draft decision to refuse domestic mobile roaming.
The Victorian Farmers Federation applauded Vodafone for launching proceedings for a judicial review into the report handed down last month by the competition watchdog.
Vodafone described the ACCC’s decision as a ‘‘flawed process’’ in a media statement, identifying that the investigation wasn’t properly conducted because the watchdog didn’t identify a specific domestic roaming service.
‘‘We can only expect the digital divide between cities and rural areas to continue to widen if we don’t enforce domestic inter-carrier roaming,’’ VFF vice-president Brett Hosking said.
‘‘If there isn’t any real competition for service, our rural and regional communities will suffer because the choice will be limited to one provider — Telstra — and without any challenge to Telstra’s market dominance we will keep paying higher prices for a poor service.’’
Australia ranks alongside Nepal and Fiji in terms of mobile providers, with three, lagging behind New Zealand with seven providers and well behind the United States with 89.
‘‘The VFF conducted a survey of 533 members and found 91 per cent used Telstra as their mobile carrier and 85 per cent used Telstra Bigpond as their Internet provider, mainly because they had little choice,’’ Mr Hosking said.
‘‘We believe the answer to the problem is to allow mobile roaming and bring competition into the market and if the ACCC disagrees, the commission should at least give us an alternative solution.
‘‘The matter is now in the hands of the Federal Court and we’ll wait for a verdict on the judicial review.”