National Farmers' Federation

Broadband wins for regional consumers but reliable telephone services remain a concern

The Telecommunications Reform Package legislation, introduced to Parliament today, includes a guarantee for all premises to be able to access broadband services. 
National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive, Tony Mahar said the legislation was a win for the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition and the consumers it represented.
“This is a significant first step to ensuring all premises across the country have access to broadband services, capable of at least 25Mbps per second download and 5Mbps upload speeds.”
Mr Mahar said the Coalition was glad to see other improvements to the Bill, which aim to stop the hand-balling of complaints between network and internet providers and to provide resolutions more quickly.
“The bill also allows regional services to be funded sustainably and transparently into the future with the Regional Broadband Scheme.
“Everybody benefits if all Australians are better connected.”
It’s been a big week for telecommunications with the Government also releasing the Productivity Commission’s (PC) report into the Universal Service Obligation (USO) on Monday.
Despite the positives in the Telco Reform Package, the Coalition continues to have concerns over the PC’s proposal that the National Broadband Network and mobile services should replace fixed-line telephone services.
“We do not agree with the PC’s view that mobile coverage outside the home is sufficient for rural areas,” Mr Mahar said.
“Many rural and regional consumers rely on these services to stay in touch with family, run businesses and stay connected during emergencies.
“Rural consumers should not have to climb to the top of buildings, walk to the end of their property or purchase elaborate and expensive repeater devices, to ensure they have voice services.”
Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN) Chief Executive, Teresa Corbin said an ongoing commitment was needed to ensure adequate telephone services continued to be available in all premises, regardless of remoteness.
“The removal of the USO cannot be considered until the Government can prove that all premises have adequate coverage or alternative reliable telephone services.
“This includes providing consumers with the ability to challenge the coverage measures in their premises,” Ms Corbin said.
There are already a number of telecommunication protections, which are currently under review. The Coalition is focussed on ensuring the establishment of a minimum standard for reliable telephone and broadband services, a review of consumer safeguards, as well as the publication of nbn’s network performance.
“The Coalition strongly encourages the Government to provide a road map to ensure no-one is left behind by the transformational changes underway,” Ms Corbin said.

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