News that the trial of phone coverage of regional rail has been a success with as much as 99 percent connectivity on a commute to Melbourne will be welcomed. While the work is yet to be done on the towers and this is where the real effectiveness and cost lies, it is heartening to see the cooperation between the big three telcos. When phone connection is possible in some of the remotest parts of the Himalaya in dirt poor Nepal, the idea that you can’t get phone coverage as the rail line climbs the heady heights above Werribee Gorge seem absurd. The commuting populations of the sophisticated world demand it as a given because the productivity the time offers is so much more than the odd phone call. An end to the oft-cursed and frequent black-spot drop outs make the hope of using the time a lot more than a wishful dream.
The Courier has long advocated for the value of a commuting population of skilled, computer literate professionals who will be a key part of our growing future. It is worth repeating for them this connectivity is not some luxury add-on but rather a basic expectation of the 21st century. Phone connection is now an essential service - as basic in many cases as a water or electricity supply. We have written endless editorials about the basic starting point of safety and the need for this infrastructure in every community for emergency. That same phone coverage has developed to a basic facet of life. If the NBN has proved a disappointment to so many, it is because connectivity threatens to be a great divider of advantage between city and regional areas. Like the phone, the telegraph before it and the railway lines it is also a simple story of conquering distance, isolation and ensuring anybody who chooses to live away from Australia’s capital cities is not disadvantaged.
Ballarat clearly does not suffer any extreme remoteness as those places where even a rail connection is a dream but every city should demand the highest level of coverage, by phone or broadband. Internet connection puts everyone on the best possible footing, whether in industry, education or health to offer competitive services not only to its own residents but much of western Victoria. Add to this Ballarat’s great value in its proximity to Melbourne and you begin to see the importance of what this can mean to the growth of a commuting city. An efficient rail link (where hopefully everyone can get a seat) and enjoy full phone coverage will simply enhance this