ACCAN calls for broadband guarantee
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has urged parliament to pass legislation guaranteeing access to broadband services for regional Australians.
The telecommunications consumer body welcomed the government’s decision to retain the current universal service obligation (USO) commitments, under which Telstra is contracted to ensure that all Australians can access a standard telephone service.
ACCAN also strongly endorsed the government's plan to introduce a new universal service guarantee that would encompass broadband services. But CEO Teresa Corbin noted that there is no legislated obligation for nbn co to deliver fast broadband to all Australian premises.
Legislation introduced into parliament in March last year would introduce such an obligation, but it has yet to be passed after all this time.
“It’s more important than ever that this legislation is passed as soon as possible. Modern communications services are essential and that includes access to broadband and voice services,” Corbin said.
ACCAN also said the body has serious concerns about service maintenance of existing voice services in regional areas, noting that there have been many reported instances where consumers have been left without services for an unacceptably long period. ACCAN recommended that the USG include clear performance standards to ensure the quality of voice networks.
But Vodafone Australia, long a critic of the government’s USO scheme, has been sharply critical of the USG proposal.
In a statement, the company said that the government has effectively elected to continue to pay Telstra over $1 million per day to maintain the USO scheme, despite acknowledging that Telstra has drastically reduced the number of copper lines and payphones servicing the areas.
With the USG scheme, Australia is following in the footsteps of the UK government, which introduced legislation for a broadband USO in March. Telecoms regulator Ofcom this month proposed to designate the UK’s largest operator, BT, and communications and IT services provider KCOM as the broadband universal service providers.
Ofcom has also launched a consultation on the obligations that should apply to the designated providers as part of the USO scheme.
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