Home Telecoms & NBN Govt retains arrangements for Universal Service Guarantee
Govt retains arrangements for Universal Service Guarantee Pixabay

The Federal Government has decided that the Universal Service Guarantee will continue to use the existing arrangements for delivering its Universal Service Obligation. Telstra copper and wireless networks will be used in rural and remote Australia for the provision of voice services in NBN fixed wireless and satellite areas.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement that the decision would ensure certainty for people, particularly those in remote and rural areas.

Over 12 months of study, the government said research had "shown that while savings could be made in the delivery of voice services using new technologies in rural and remote areas, moving away from the existing copper and wireless networks in NBN Co's fixed wireless and satellite areas, at this time, would create concerns for rural and remote customers and counter‑balance costs for NBN Co".

A report summarising the work was released on Wednesday.

It also concludes that payphone locations could be examined, as the uptake of mobile services was strong and would undertake further work in this area.

Telstra payphones that service Indigenous communities and those where there was no mobile coverage would generally be quarantined.

“We have listened to regional Australians and heard the importance of maintaining existing copper and wireless networks for fixed voice calls in NBN Co's fixed wireless and satellite areas," he said.

"I thank everyone who took the time to provide their views on this critical issue.

“We will not make changes that affect regional Australians until there are robust and proven alternatives to the existing USO.”

The statement said the government would deliver the broadband part of the USG through the national broadband network, and that more than 98% of premises outside major urban areas could now order an NBN service or had construction underway.

Reacting to the announcement, Labor Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Stephen Jones said: "Following a Productivity Commission review which commenced in June 2016, a USO taskforce, and 2½ years having elapsed, Mitch Fifield has today re-announced an acronym to describe existing safeguards for the delivery of phone and broadband services.

"NBN Co already has a universal service delivery obligation for broadband via its Statement of Expectations, and Telstra has a USO obligation for delivery of voice services.

"Coming up with a new acronym – the Universal Service Guarantee (USG) — to describe what is already there does not constitute progress.

"The government has also failed to offer any views on the future relationship between the USO levy and its proposed regional broadband levy.

"This latest development is simply an in-tray clearing exercise by a Minister who has given up on governing."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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