Monday, 19 November 2018 00:46

Regional coalition repeats call for reform to telecoms services Featured

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The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition has again called for the Australian Government to introduce much needed reforms to underpin the delivery of telecommunications services across Australia.

The RRRCC repeated its call when responding to the government’s proposals, flagged in a Department of Communications and the Arts consultation paper, which focuses on the reliability of telecommunications services.

"Communications are now an essential part of our lives and we are pleased to see that these proposals are reflective of this reality," Australian Communications Consumer Action Network director of Policy, Una Lawrence, said.

“We have been urging the government to introduce much needed reforms to underpin the delivery of the telecommunications services we all rely on for some years, and we welcome this first step in the process."

Lawrence said the current rules setting timeframes for connection, fault repair and appointment keeping, applied only to fixed voice services.

"Established network performance benchmarks, measuring the number of network drop outs, are poorly designed and only cover Telstra’s copper network. These arrangements no longer reflect the way that Australians live and communicate.”

According to ACCAN, the arrangements for priority assistance customers who need faster connections and fault repairs due to medical conditions are similarly outdated, as they only apply to Telstra’s fixed voice services.

“Priority assistance customers are currently forced to be with Telstra for their fixed line voice service, which means they’re not getting the benefits of the competition the NBN is meant to bring to the market. Turning priority assistance into a broad-based industry obligation that applies to broadband as well as voice will address this anomaly,” Lawrence said.

“Some of the key concerns that we hope to see addressed through the consultation process include the effectiveness of incentives for industry to comply with future safeguards, and that performance benchmarks are set at a level that that will deliver for the community and small businesses – for both mobile and fixed networks. We’d like to see the government move quickly on these important reforms, and roll them out at the earliest possible opportunity.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said, as a member of the RRRCC, the Federation had consistently reminded government and providers that regional, rural and remote people should be able to expect similar levels of high levels of service and reliability, as that received by urban-based Australians.

“This reform is one of five key asks that we have been seeking since the RRRCC was formed nearly two years ago," he said.

"The proposals recommended are very welcome and will be providing a very supportive submission to the process.

“However, as with anything success of reforms depends on a well-resourced regulator that has the tools and capacity to monitor and enforce where required.

“RRRCC will be talking closely to with their members and consumers generally to make sure their interests are fully represented in this important consultation.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year 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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