Home Telecoms & NBN Productivity Commission report on USO chance to reframe telecoms services in ‘NBN world’: Labor

Productivity Commission report on USO chance to reframe telecoms services in ‘NBN world’: Labor

The Labor Party says the release of the Productivity Commission report into the Universal Service Obligation (USO) highlights the imperative to reframe the objective for universal telecommunications services to provide baseline broadband and voice services as the NBN rolls out.

“This process will also require a co-ordinated discussion about the appropriate consumer safeguards and service standards for an NBN world,” says the Opposition Shadow Minister for regional communications Stephen Jones.

He says the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for winding up the USO by 2020 means the co-operation of government, industry, and stakeholders will be essential towards ensuring a move to new arrangements is transparent and places consumers’ outcomes at the centre.

“The migration experience matters and it’s important to avoid a repeat of the rampant consumer NBN failures seen under Malcolm Turnbull,” Jones says.

Jones notes that the report also makes several recommendations about the necessity of improving the availability and quality of information.

“Policy makers require a better understanding of the delivery costs of the USO, as well as the distribution of USO premises, in order to make well-informed judgments about the costs and benefits of transition options during negotiations,” he says.

“Better information will also enable the design of more targeted and cost-effective solutions that better leverage both NBN and mobile infrastructure to deliver universal access.

“Labor has previously stated there needs to be a ‘single view’ about the layers of communications services available in regional Australia. There is an integrated quality to how different communications services interact to deliver outcomes and our public data should reflect this.

“We need clear line of sight into the quality, reliability and coverage of various networks which relate to USO outcomes. The government needs to stop dragging its feet and make this a reality."

According to the shadow minister, it is also telling that “page 20 of the PC report under the heading — 'a lack of policy coherence’ — and finding 9.4 raise concerns about the ‘the current pattern of ongoing discrete telecommunications policy reviews’ and  ‘coherence of telecommunications policy’.”

Jones has committed Labor to examining the final report carefully, and consulting with industry, regional communities, stakeholders and consumer groups on the recommendations by the Productivity Commission.

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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).