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 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.