Thursday, 22 June 2017 20:30

Big win for consumers in telecoms reforms, says ACCAN Featured

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Big win for consumers in telecoms reforms, says ACCAN Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has given a tick of approval to changes to legislation for improving consumer protections in the telecommunications industry.

The consumer body says the positive changes in the Telecommunications Reform Package introduced into Parliament on Thursday are a “big win” for all consumers – particularly the Statutory Infrastructure Provider provisions now ensuring that all premises can access a network capable of delivering retail plans of 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload speeds.

ACCAN says the Regional Broadband Scheme, which is also included in the legislation, will ensure regional services are funded sustainably and transparently.

But while also welcoming the reforms, the Regional Rural and Remote Communications Coalition — the advocacy group set up with ACCAN to push for improved regional communications — says despite the positives, it continues to have concerns over Productivity Commission proposals that NBN and mobile services should replace fixed-line telephone services in regional areas.

The National Farmers’ Federation, a member of the RRRCC, says it doesn’t agree with the PC’s view that mobile coverage outside the home is sufficient for rural areas.

In its response on Thursday to the proposed reforms, ACCAN said it was also pleased to see changes that no areas will be exempt from the Statutory Infrastructure Provider provisions and that voice capability will be ensured over fixed line and fixed wireless areas.

ACCAN notes that the Regional Broadband Scheme, which is also included in the legislation, will ensure regional services are funded sustainably and transparently.

“There are economic and societal benefits in having everyone connected, therefore ensuring that broadband services are funded sustainably into the future is vital,” the statement says.

ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin said the legislation includes big wins for all consumers, “especially for regional, rural and remote consumers”.

“Broadband services are essential for consumers, yet currently, there is no requirement on NBN to connect and provide ongoing services to all premises. We are pleased that consumers can now be reassured that under the proposed legislation all premises must be able to access a broadband network capable of a minimum peak speed of 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload.”

The draft legislation released last December did not ensure peak speeds to consumers served by NBN satellite and fixed wireless, which ACCAN has said was not equitable for regional consumers.

“We are glad to see that all consumers, no matter where they live, are protected in this legislation. ACCAN will be encouraging the minister to use the new powers proposed in the legislation to set service standards if the bill is passed,” Corbin says.

She says the measures introduced in the legislation are the first step toward ensuring adequate consumer protections can be put in place for future broadband and phone services.

“We must also ensure that public phones will be provided where they are needed and consumers relying on satellite services have access to reliable telephone and broadband services.

“We’re looking forward to further discussions with government and industry on the upcoming Consumer Safeguards Review and the government response to the Productivity Commission report on the Universal Service Obligation,” Corbin concluded.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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