Thursday, 21 December 2017 00:06

Govt says new Universal Service Guarantee will improve regional telecoms services Featured


The federal government has announced a programme of work to implement a new Universal Service Guarantee, which it says will ensure all Australians have access to voice and broadband services, regardless of where they live.

As part of the development of the new USG, the government has said it is committed to voice telephony services via the existing Universal Service Obligation contract with Telstra until this is replaced with a USG following the completion of the national broadband network rollout in 2020.

Before any changes are made, the government says the USG will need to meet certain requirements:

a.    Broadband services are available to 100% of Australian premises, on request, at the completion of the NBN rollout in 2020.

b.    Voice services are available to 100% of Australian premises on request.

c.    Any proposed new service delivery arrangements are more cost-effective than the existing USO contract (including any transitional costs).

d.    A new consumer safeguards framework is in place following a review and associated public consultation process.

“The government is taking a ‘belt and braces’ approach to protecting telecommunications accessibility for people in regional Australia,” said Communications Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield.

“The government is putting new, stronger safeguards in place before making any changes to existing safeguards while the NBN is rolled out.”

The USG will be developed following the Productivity Commission inquiry into the USO, which found the existing contract to be “anachronistic and costly” and said it should be “replaced by a new framework to reflect changing policy, market and technological realities”.

The government announced on Wednesday it would develop options to implement a USG which ensures all Australian premises have access to retail voice and broadband services delivered on a commercial basis, underpinned by the Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) framework currently before Parliament.

And where necessary, options will be developed for targeted government measures, for example, to deliver alternative voice services to premises in the NBN satellite footprint which don’t have mobile coverage.

The government says it has now commenced work on cost and delivery options to provide for a future USG, and will consider the future allocation of the $100 million in annual funding it pays into the existing USO contract as part of any change to existing USO arrangements.

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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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