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Wednesday, 22 February 2006 04:18

Telstra claims no 'USO mandated' payphones to be removed

Telstra has confirmed that it is considering the removal of up to 5,000 'loss-making' public payphones saying that none of these are 'mandated by the Universal Service Obligation', but the USO does not actually specify locations in which payphones must be installed.

Telstra also says that around 2,500 of the affected phones are located on private property and could, if removed, be replaced by privately-owned payphones. It further claims that, of the remainder, the majority are at sites in metropolitan areas where multiple public payphones are located together.

"Telstra has always informed local communities before making decisions to close or relocate public phones, and we will continue to do so," said the executive responsible for payphones, David Moffatt, group managing director, Telstra Consumer & Marketing.

Moffatt added: "Telstra has never proposed to close payphones mandated by the Universal Service Obligation (USO), and suggestions to the contrary are wrong."

However it is extremely difficult to identify which payphones are 'mandated' by the USO. The USO simply requires Telstra to: "...[ensure] that all people in Australia, no matter where they live or conduct business, have reasonable access to an efficient and reliable standard telephone service and to payphones, including responsive fault repair."

Telstra quantifies this 'reasonableness in its USO standard marketing plan, which has been approved by the government, and this sets out a list of criteria which Telstra uses to determine where to locate loss-making payphones. Telstra does not provide a list of the locations of such  payphones.

Moffatt said that the company had, for the past few years, planned to close or relocate more than 1,000 payphones every year, but community feedback had seen Telstra reverse its position in about 10 per cent of cases.

Telstra says that local government authorities have been and will continue to be proactively contacted with information about the company's plans, as well as being invited to provide feedback.

Telstra also says it has placed on affected payphones a sticker notifying local communities of the potential change and the at "this sticker will now be redesigned and improved to distinguish between potential relocations and removals, and to provide even more information about channels for participation in the decision-making process."

Telstra says it will specifically take into account the response of local communities, including representations from local government, members of parliament and community groups before removing a payphone

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