Telsoc also demands a more robust communications infrastructure for a bipartisan NBN futures plan and calls for a 10 year plan from the operators of the broadband network, NBN Co.
The telecommunications group made its comments on Wednesday when releasing its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the NBN, which includes a report from a working group auspiced by the organisation.
TelSoc has called on federal and state governments to ensure we have more robust systems with better backup in case of failure, particularly during major emergencies.
“Should the proposed bushfires royal commission proceed TelSoc believes one of its terms of reference should include examining telecommunications needs,” Telsoc says in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Commenting on the NBN inquiry TelSoc president Professor Reg Coutts said the board was keen to see positive outcomes that help put the country at the technological forefront “as we seek to leverage the benefits of a digitally-enabled global economy”.
“As we approach the scheduled completion of the NBN in the middle of the year we need to look at how we can improve the delivery of broadband services to all Australians,” Professor Coutts said.
“It is regrettable that such an important infrastructure project has become so mired in party politics. TelSoc believes that the nationwide provision of fast, economical and reliable broadband must be removed from the political playfield. That’s why we support calls for a bipartisan futures plan.”
Key points in the Telsoc working group NBN submission are:
1. It is vital in the national interest that the federal Government, the Opposition and all relevant stakeholders come together to agree on a bipartisan strategy to ensure that the NBN is technologically relevant and capable of delivering the services required by all Australians.
2. The essential elements in the required plan include a reassessment of the underlying delivery technologies and how they will be used and developed in future to ensure sustainable delivery of services.
3. The Government should arrange for the preparation of a comprehensive ten year development plan. A draft plan should be provided to a wide range of stakeholders for their input. The plan needs to include a review of NBN’s current and future financing requirements and technology upgrade paths.
4. There needs to be greater attention given to how broadband services are provided to small to medium businesses, to ensure that such businesses have affordable access and capacity to engaging effectively with their customers and suppliers.
Commenting on the role of telecommunications during recent bushfire emergency, Professor Coutts, noted that the failure of communications systems in an emergency places peoples’ lives at risk.
“When phones and the Internet go down people are unable to call for help and support. Not having access to up-to-date information on the local situation makes it difficult to know what to do and how to react. It also prevents people from checking in with loved-ones to assure them they are OK," Professor Coutts said.
"Individual telco organisations have been working hard to ensure continuous service availability.
“In many cases damaged equipment has been replaced in very good time. However, what we need is a more structured response and a national telecommunications emergency plan.
“There are many ways in which things could be improved. Greater resilience in the design of systems, more redundancy and having readily available backup equipment and the teams to replace what’s been damaged. That’s something that needs to be planned in advance.
“TelSoc applauds the work that has been done, in many cases by volunteers and people working long hours. We wish to support them by calling on our governments to learn from the current crisis and ensure we are even better prepared next time we face such a terrible situation,” Professor Coutts concluded.