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ACCAN responded to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ consultation on the circumstances in which Statutory Infrastructure Providers are exempt from the obligation to connect and supply premises with wholesale communications services, via telecommunication retail providers. The Department has been consulting on the draft Telecommunications (Statutory Infrastructure Provider – Circumstances for Exceptions to Connection and Supply Obligations) Determination 2020 that would give effect to these arrangements.

It is important that premises are only refused connection and supply of telecommunications services in limited and reasonable circumstances. ACCAN considers that generally the draft determination proposed by the Department ensures this is achieved.

ACCAN has responded to the Digital Transformation Agency’s consultation paper on proposed laws for the Australian Government’s Govpass digital identity platform.

ACCAN’s recommendations included:

  • All privacy and consumer protection safeguards in the Digital Identity Framework must be enshrined in law to ensure compliance;
  • The definition of Digital Identity should be harmonised with the revised Privacy Act to create a robust network of privacy protections for consumers; and
  • A charging framework should not be introduced as it will discourage some non-government organisations from using the Digital Identity system.

In December 2020, ACCAN submitted to the Australian Attorney General’s Department Issues Paper consultation on the review of the Privacy Act 1988. Our submission aimed to ensure privacy settings empower consumers and protect their data, and we worked closely with privacy advocates in developing our response. The review is part of the Australian Government's response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Digital Platforms Inquiry.

In late 2020 the Department of Social Services consulted on the Outcomes Frameworks for the National Disability Strategy (the Strategy) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Outcomes Frameworks are intended to track progress over time to consider whether the Strategy and NDIS are improving the lives of people with disability in Australia.

In ACCAN’s submission, we explained that accessible and affordable digital communications technologies are essential to facilitate a more inclusive and accessible society for people with disability in Australia. We argued that outcomes and measures relating to digital communications technologies must therefore be included in the Outcomes Frameworks for both the Strategy and the NDIS.

Consumers often experience long wait times and poor customer service when trying to resolve issues with their telcos, but how much time does this take, and at what cost?


To find out, ACCAN commissioned a survey to ask 2994 consumers about their experiences when they contact their telco. Based on the results, we have worked out the cost to consumers in time lost resolving their telco issue, instead of doing something else.

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The No Australian Left Offline - National Webinar was held 9 December and provided a report back on the key issues from the 6 State and Territory based virtual roundtables that have taken place during 2020.

These roundtables have provided a unique opportunity for those involved to share and discuss some of the barriers that are impacting communities when it comes to getting connected and using the internet.

ACCAN and nbn Co. plan to continue this collaborative approach into 2021, working towards more affordable, reliable broadband services for all Australians.

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The ACMA have proposed new rules to improve telecommunications service standards.
ACCAN supports the draft rules because they ensure telcos pass on to affected customers certain rebates received from wholesalers, such as NBN, when issues of delayed connections and fault repairs, and missed appointments occur. In our submission, we urged that the customer should receive the full amount of rebate, whether that be a direct financial payment or through a measure put in place by their telcos to fix the issue, such as 4G back-up modems.

ACCAN’s purpose is to work for “communications services that are trusted, inclusive and available for all.” Our Strategic Plan can be viewed at accan.org.au.

In 2021 ACCAN efforts will be focused on the following priority areas, informed by the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on consumers’ use of communications services. At the same time, we will be responsive to emerging issues, and engage with government and industry consultations in areas of significance for telecommunications consumers
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Our policy priorities are developed in close consultation with ACCAN members, and are informed by our knowledge and analysis of the communications market.

 

ACCAN recently made a submission to the Digital Industry Groups (DIGI) consultation on their voluntary industry Code on disinformation. The Code has been developed in response to ‘Regulating in the Digital Age: Government Response and Implementation Roadmap for the Digital Platforms Inquiry’. The Code outlines what the digital platforms will do to address concerns regarding disinformation and credibility signaling for news content in the Australian context.

ACCAN is deeply concerned about the inadequacy of existing government programs supporting improved communications infrastructure in remote Indigenous communities (RICs). These communities are among the most disadvantaged and digitally disengaged in the country.

The pre-existing digital divide has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. While there has been an accelerated take up of digital services such as videoconferencing, remote server access, and telehealth for those with access and skills, communities that are disconnected are at a much greater disadvantage at this time. Very few remote Indigenous people have the option of home schooling, working from home, or accessing basic services online. Most RICs have restricted all non-essential movement due to the high risks associated with COVID infection, increasing the need for remote access to services, including health, education, Centrelink, MyGov, justice, banking and so on. However, with an estimated 30% of remote and very remote Indigenous people without household access to telephony or internet, and many Shire/Council offices, schools and other service centres closed, some essential services have not been available to many remote Indigenous people.

New analysis commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) shows that urgent action is needed to address the digital divide in remote Indigenous communities in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.

While much of the nation turned to digital services such as videoconferencing and telehealth during the rolling lockdowns put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, very few remote Indigenous communities were able to work or learn from home, or access government and health services online. With access by service providers limited by travel restrictions, many people were left without access to essential services. In some remote communities, the Wi-Fi hotspot, the only point of access, was switched off to avoid people congregating.

“COVID-19 saw communities without food and necessities of life because of the lack of access to adequate, reliable, and robust telecommunications,” said ACCAN Board Member and proud Torres Strait Islander, Dr Heron Loban.

Man at desk checking his mobile phoneACCAN’s Survey reveals telecommunications services are essential to small businesses but they are being let down by performance and customer service.

ACCAN surveyed 183 small and medium sized businesses between September – October to gain an understanding of SME’s experiences with their telecommunications providers during the pandemic.

Issues of speed, reliability, poor customer service and high costs were predominant. Of all the issues, speed and reliability was mentioned the most, with 39% of SMEs who provided feedback citing poor service performance, slow internet speeds, dropouts, outages, congestion and unacceptable latency.

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The Federal government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is consulting on guidelines for funding proposals by the telco industry under Round 5A of the Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP). Following our submission on the design of Round 5A, ACCAN has provided additional comments on the draft guidelines.

ACCAN supports elements of the Draft Guidelines introduced to target areas prone to natural disasters, promote competition outcomes in previously under-serviced regions and encourage active infrastructure sharing between mobile network operators and infrastructure providers.

ACCAN also advocated in favour of broadening the eligibility for funding to include:

ACCAN submitted to the review of the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia (MBA) program. Launched in 2017, the MBA measures broadband speeds on NBN Fixed Line broadband services.

ACCAN strongly advocated in favour of retaining the Measuring Broadband Australia scheme because the program has resulted in:

  • A decline in the number of consumer complaints;
  • Improved broadband performance by encouraging competition between telcos selling NBN Fixed Line broadband services;
  • enforcement action against RSPs who have made misleading claims about broadband speeds; and
  • Collection and reporting of data that has influenced policy decisions for the benefit of consumers.

ACCAN also encouraged the ACCC to expand the program to measure the performance of:

In response to consumers experiencing long wait times and other significant customer service issues when contacting their telecommunications providers.

ACCAN commissioned Synergies Economics to develop a model to estimate the cost of consumer time that is spent trying to resolve issues with their telecommunications provider.

To extend this work, ACCAN has commissioned Colmar Brunton to collect data for use in the economic modelling prepared.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications sought comments on proposals to amend part 20A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 to boost pit and pipe provision in new developments.

Currently unincorporated developers are not required to build the necessary pits and pipes to allow network providers to install telecommunications in new buildings. Whilst most developers provide the necessary infrastructure to support telecommunications, there are a small number of premises built, in areas serviced by fixed-line telecommunications networks, without telecommunications pit and pipe, leading to inconvenience and additional costs for occupants of these premises.

This problem affects up to 3,000 premises a year and comes at a cost to new occupants as they will experience a lack of service, delays in service, cost of retrofitting and the cost of interim services.

The Australian Communication Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomed today’s announced measures from the ACCC to improve the affordability of entry-level nbn plan, and to ensure that consumers are better compensated for missed nbn appointments.

“The issue of affordable broadband has never been more real for the millions of Australians who have turned to online services this year for access to healthcare, education, work, and government services,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

“We’re pleased that following the ACCC’s recommendation, NBN Co have agreed to reduce the price of their entry-level access bundle. However, it is disappointing that the ACCC has not recognised that 12/1 Mbps nbn plans are not an adequate entry-level option for most consumers.

The Department of Social Services recently released a position paper and sought feedback from the community on the development of a new National Disability Strategy. ACCAN made a submission to this consultation. Our submission was endorsed by 25 organisations and ACCAN members.

A new report released by ACCAN today delves into young people’s experiences and issues with accessing and using phone and internet services.

We know that for many young people, phone and internet services are vital for work, study, accessing services and keeping connected with family and friends.

Our research focused on:

The Western Australian Government recently sought feedback on a blueprint which outlines its vision and approach for making WA a digitally inclusive state.

ACCAN made a submission to this consultation and supported the blueprint’s four priority areas of connectivity, affordability, skills and design. These areas broadly align with ACCAN’s policy priorities and feedback we regularly receive about access to communications products and services. In our submission we provided a brief overview of these priority areas, with a particular focus on affordability and accessibility issues.

The ACCC has resumed its inquiries into NBN’s access pricing and wholesale service standards. ACCAN has previously responded to these inquiries:

ACCAN submitted a response to the ACCC’s discussion paper which commenced a public inquiry into whether the following services should continue to be declared:

  • Superfast broadband access service (SBAS)
  • Local bitstream access service (LBAS)


The SBAS and LBAS cover a range of non-NBN superfast fixed broadband networks. ACCAN is supportive of continuing the LBAS and SBAS declarations as superfast broadband networks are enduring bottlenecks. Due to a lack of infrastructure competition, without declaration consumers will be restricted in service provider choice and price.


ACCAN submitted to the inquiry into the business case for the NBN and the experiences of small businesses.

The Joint Standing Committee sought views on the experiences of NBN consumers throughout COVID-19, network performance and NBN’s response.

ACCAN raised the following points:

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ACCANect Online 2020

Deirdre ODonnelll - ACCAN Chairperson2020 has demonstrated the essential nature of communications in modern Australians’ lives. From the devastation of the summer bushfires at the beginning of the year to the sudden and widespread shift to remote working and learning during the COVID-19 crisis, the need for reliable phone and internet services has never been more pressing for consumers, small businesses and the nation.

ACCANect Online provides a platform for telecommunications consumers to hear from leading voices in the telco sector about the key communications issues that are impacting consumers today and into the future. The new multi-part video series from ACCAN features presentations on the accessibility of communications services, issues relating to regional, rural and remote Australians, and digital inclusion, as well as interviews with ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

Read more about the speakers below.

Deidre O'Donnell, ACCAN Chairperson

 

The Federal Government is reviewing consumer safeguards in telecommunications. The third and final part of their review, Part C: Choice and Fairness, looks at consumer protections. Consumer protections rules govern the lifecycle of a customer’s relationship with their telco. The rules outline how a provider must treat their customers, what sort of information it needs to provide, and what it needs to do when things go wrong.

Consumer Safeguards Review Part C examines:

  • The issues that should be covered in consumer protections rules,

  • The way that the rules should be made,

  • The way that the rules should be enforced,

  • What should happen to old rules that have existed for a long time, and

  • What should be done about the affordability of telecommunications services.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed NBN Co’s decision to extend its Education Assistance offer until 15 January 2021. The targeted offer from NBN Co waives the wholesale costs for many services on the 25/5 Mbps speed tier and encourages telcos to offer free or heavily discounted nbn plans to low-income households with school-aged children.

“The nbn Education Assistance offer has meant that thousands of low-income households have been able to connect to the nbn for the first time,” said ACCAN Director of Policy, Una Lawrence.

“Without the financial assistance from this offer, many struggling households couldn’t afford a fixed home broadband connection. This would leave countless children offline and unable to learn from home during the rolling shutdowns of schools across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ACCAN made a submission in response to the ACCC’s proposed enhancements to the Broadband Speeds Claims – Industry Guidance. ACCAN submitted that to avoid misleading the consumer telco retailers should:

  • Use the lowest end of any speed ranges provided by a wholesale product in off-peak speed marketing information, and RSPs should inform consumers if the off-peak speed changes;

  • Not advertise ‘burst speeds’ – off peak high speeds that are only occasionally available for short periods – as off-peak speeds;

  • Be transparent about the suitability and quality of their plans and products for online gaming, taking into account periods when the broadband network has high traffic demand;

  • Provide faster connection speeds in plans for online gaming to deliver a good customer experience, particularly in current circumstances where COVID-19 work from home and home schooling restrictions are increasing the strain on the broadband network;

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is the external dispute resolution body for telecommunications consumers and small businesses who are unable to resolve complaints directly with their telco service providers. The TIO has consulted on changes to its Terms of Reference to allow for evolving technologies, changing consumer need and growth of smart devices.

ACCAN’s submission welcomed the proposed changes to the TIO’s remit and Terms of Reference including:

  • an increase in the amount of compensation available to consumers;

  • extending the jurisdiction for complaints and dispute resolution to include smart devices provided by TIO members;

  • allowing more than one service provider to be dealt with in the same complaint to make resolution easier;

  • compensating consumers for non-financial loss; and

  • aligning the TIO’s definition of small business with that in the Australian Consumer Law.

ACCAN recently made a submission relating to the draft AS/CA S042.1:2020 Requirements for connection to an air interface of a Telecommunications Network— Part 1: General. The aim of this Standard is to provide requirements and test methodology for customer equipment used in connection with a Public Mobile Telecommunications Service (PMTS) or Satellite Service.

In our submission ACCAN argued that there is a need for improved consumer education around making emergency calls from different types of customer equipment.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed action by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) against telcos who breached consumer protection rules.

“Telstra, Optus, TPG and Dodo are four of the country’s biggest telcos; they know the rules regarding migrating to the NBN and what they need to do to keep consumers connected. It is very disappointing that they have failed their customers by leaving them without a working internet service,” said ACCAN Director of Policy, Una Lawrence.

“To have over 8,000 total breaches of NBN service continuity rules is simply unacceptable. The ACMA may need to keep a closer eye on this issue as the NBN roll-out finishes and many more Australians make the switch.”

ACCAN logo

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the ACCAN will be held via virtual meeting, on Thursday 24th September 2020 from 4.00pm.

ACCAN AGM

Date: Thursday 24th September 2020

Time: 4:00pm (AEST)

Venue: Virtual Meeting via Zoom – Please register from here by 22nd September 2020.

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ACCAN recently made a submission to Communications Alliance in response to a call for public comments about the Emergency Call Service Requirements Industry Code DR C536 2020 (the Code). The Code places obligations on Carriers, Carriage Service Providers (CSPs) and Emergency Call Persons (ECPs). Carriers, CSPs and ECPs are required to ensure customers have access to the emergency call service, and also have access to information about the emergency call service.

ACCAN has recently endorsed the Communications Alliance draft DR C564:2020 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Industry Code. The draft Code updates the previous version to bring it in line with the ‘temporary facilities’ requirements in the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 2018.

ACCAN was a participating member of the Communications Alliance working group reviewing this Code.

New research from the National Youth Commission of Australia (NYC) highlights the need to urgently address internet affordability, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The NYC’s Inquiry into Youth Employment and Transitions Interim Findings Report shows that limited access to technology, insufficient digital literacy and a lack of affordable internet services are limiting opportunities for the nation’s young people.

“The National Youth Commission’s research points to case study after case study that demonstrates the real-life impacts that not being online can have,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

“Without access to the internet and the digital literacy skills to navigate online, young people are simply unable to engage with government services to get the help they need.”

Ms Corbin said that the COVID-19 pandemic had shone a light on the digital divide.

At ACCAN, issues relating to accessibility have always been at the forefront of our policy and consumer education efforts. After celebrating our 10th birthday and reflecting upon the positive changes that we had successfully advocated for, we started contemplating what accessibility improvements ACCAN would like to see in the communications sector in 2020 and beyond. We considered the existing communications issues affecting people with disability and wondered what issues may arise in the future.

From this, ACCAN started developing an Ideal Accessible Communications Roadmap in consultation with the disability sector. Towards the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, we sought feedback from a range of organisations supporting people with disability. We asked about the top three communications issues that were currently affecting people with disability, the top three communications issues that contributors thought would affect people with disability in the future, and suggestions for possible solutions to address these existing and anticipated communications issues. Through email conversations, phone calls and group brainstorming sessions, we received responses from 35 organisations, including Disabled Peoples Organisations, advocacy groups and disability service providers, as well as nine individuals with disability who offered their own personal insights of their lived experience.

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The ACCC consulted on the NBN Services in Operation (SIO) Record Keeping Rules (RKR). The rules require NBN to share information on a quarterly basis with the ACCC regarding the number of services in operation, network capacity acquired, technology type and attributes as well as geographical distribution of services. This information is then shared as part of the NBN wholesale market indicators report. The rules are due to expire on 30 September 2020, the ACCC sought consultation on whether they should be extended or amended.

ACCAN supports the ACCC’s preference for extending the rules for another five years and believes that the rules provide a comprehensive view of the NBN wholesale market. We therefore provided no suggestions for revision.

ACCAN made a submission to the Select Committee Inquiry into Australian Government's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Overall, ACCAN praised the government’s response to the pandemic, NBN Co’s COVID-19 telecommunications assistance packages, and the telecommunications industry providers who quickly developed a range of measures designed to assist recipients to meet their ongoing financial commitments.

ACCAN is seeking nominations for Directors to fill three (3) vacancies on its Board.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution, the 2020-2021 ACCAN Board will consist of nine (9) members1. Six (6) positions are continuing Directors from the 2019-2020 Board. Three (3) Directors are retiring from the Board but may be eligible for re-election as stated in the ACCAN Constitution.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution Board members are elected for a three year term.

In order to ensure an appropriate balance, the Board is particularly seeking candidates with legal and regulatory expertise; and/or experience in financial management and governance in a not for profit organisation; and/or an understanding of the issues affecting young consumers; and/or small businesses.

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Following a competitive application process, ACCAN is pleased to announce the successful Grants for 2020.

This year’s projects will explore a range of issues relevant to communications consumers, including how to protect children’s privacy when using apps, regional and rural consumers’ understanding of smart technologies, and the accessibility of video on demand services, among others.

The ACCAN Grants Program funds projects which undertake research on telecommunications issues, represent consumers or create educational tools which empower consumers to derive the greatest benefit from telecommunications products and services.
Research and outcomes achieved by Grants projects inform ACCAN's work and contribute to the broader evidence base for consumers, regulators and service providers in the telecommunications market.

The successful projects are listed below. For more information on the projects, visit the current Grants page.

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Wamboin Communications Action Group Inc.

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $50,000

University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $65,091

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $98,637

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $45,754

Curtin University

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $46,635

Charles Sturt University

Grant Round: 2020

Amount:$16,606

Centre for Accessibility

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $69,794

Apps Can TrapAustralian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM)

Grant Round: 2020

Amount: $48,000

Up until recently, superfast fixed line broadband networks serving residential customers had to operate on a structurally separated basis – which means a strict separation between wholesale and retail arms of the business. Recent amendments to the Telecommunications Act allow networks to functionally separate, which is a less costly way of achieving similar outcomes. The ACCC role is:

  • to develop an optional standard functional separation undertaking for networks, as an alternative to networks developing their own;

  • to make determinations exempting small network operators from separating wholesale and retail parts of their business.

The ACCC’s consultation is about proposed requirements for functional separation, and criteria for granting exemptions.

Sue Salthouse recieving her ACCAN life memebrshipACCAN board and staff are deeply saddened by the passing of Sue Salthouse.

Sue was a dedicated advocate for people with disability and made huge contributions to improving the accessibility of telecommunications for people with disability in Australia.

Prior to becoming a member of the inaugural ACCAN Board, Sue was on the Telecommunications Consumer Representation Working Group which developed the proposal for the creation of ACCAN. Sue served as Chairperson following ACCAN’s first AGM in 2009 and stayed on as a member of the board until 2012. Sue also offered support to ACCAN’s Standing Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, as Chair of the Committee from 2009-2010. In recognition of her pivotal and enduring commitment to communications consumers, Sue was awarded ACCAN Life Membership in 2019.

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The telco regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), is updating two parts of the NBN Consumer Experience Rules: the Service Migration Determination, and the Service Continuity Standard. These rules set out how providers should move customers from their old service over to the NBN, including making sure not to turn off the old service before the new one is working, and developing a plan if the new service isn’t working after 20 days. The proposed changes to these rules seek to clarify key terms and obligations.

ACCAN supports most of the proposed changes. However, ACCAN doesn’t support changes about information a provider needs to tell a customer about the cause of and solution for a problem with their new NBN service. ACCAN has previously commented on the NBN Consumer Experience Rules, and you can read more about this here.

Standards Australia is an independent non-government organisation responsible for the development of Australian Standards. Standards Australia is reviewing its corporate governance and membership system to assess whether it is fit for purpose.

Our submission acknowledges Standards Australia’s existing commitment to consumer representation in standards development. ACCAN encourages Standards Australia to make changes to its corporate governance structure and membership system to expand the role of consumer organisations, and increase their participation in Standards Australia’s governance.

ACCAN has made two submissions to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission). In these submissions we highlighted the importance of communications accessibility for consumers with disability.

SkyMuster Guide - 3rd Edition Cover Graphics

Sky Muster and Sky Muster Plus (or nbn’s Satellite Services) provide fast broadband coverage to around 430,000 homes and small businesses across regional, rural and remote Australia and its islands.

The 3rd edition of this extensive, easy to understand guide is now available for download in PDF and Word formats.

It covers topics such as:

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ACCAN has responded to the draft report published by the ACCC on the public inquiry on the access determination for the domestic mobile terminating access service (MTAS). The purpose of the inquiry was to set an appropriate price that mobile network operators can charge for calls terminating on their mobile networks.

The ACCC carried out a benchmarking exercise which sought to estimate the current cost of providing MTAS in Australia by comparing the cost of providing the service in various countries and applying it to an Australian context. ACCAN supports the methodology used in the benchmarking exercise which produced a range for the estimated cost of supplying MTAS in Australia, but questions aspects of the approach taken by the ACCC.

ACCAN Winter Magazine 2020

Download: pdfACCAN Magazine Issue 36 Winter 20201.45 MB

Download accessible version: docxACCAN Magazine Issue 36 Winter 2020 - accessible version29.83 KB

ACCAN submitted to the ACCC’s review on Division 12 and Internet Activity Record Keeping Rule where there were several proposals regarding the information the ACCC seeks from service providers.

The Department of Communications and the Arts has drafted an exemption instrument to the new Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) obligations that started on 1 July 2020. The SIP obligations require NBN and any other carriers providing telecommunications services in existing and new developments to provide high speed internet (broadband) and voice services on request.

ACCAN supports the exemption instrument proposed by the Department for the following reasons:

  • It allows carriers providing voice and mobile services (for example, Telstra fixed voice services; mobile network operators) to continue to do so without being bound by SIP obligations; this ensures that they are not deterred in providing these services.
  • The exemption will support continuity of these important services for consumers and small businesses.
  • ACCAN notes that this does not affect Telstra’s ongoing obligation to provide fixed voice services outside NBN’s fixed line footprint under the Universal Service Obligation, and that NBN will in most cases be obliged by SIP obligations.

 

Download: docxConsultation on Draft Statutory Infrastructure Provider Exemption Instrument Blurb71.77 KB

Download: pdf Consultation on Draft Statutory Infrastructure Provider Exemption Instrument Blurb151.25 KB

As the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance has been a vocal supporter of telehealth and the many benefits that it can bring, especially for those outside of metropolitan areas.


In the wake of COVID-19, we spoke to Dr Gabrielle O’Kane, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance to hear about how people in regional, rural and remote Australia were adapting to telehealth and what the future may hold for this technology-driven approach to healthcare.

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ACCAN made a submission to the Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP) Round 5A Discussion Paper.

Lack of telecommunications connectivity denies regional, rural and remote communities the socio-economic benefits that people in metropolitan areas take for granted. Yet mobile network providers are now at a point where there is minimal return on investment for them in rural, remote and regional locations and there is little incentive for them to build infrastructure in these areas.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications consultation on options to support Australian stories on our screens. Australian content has cultural value for all Australians, including people with disability, and as such everyone should have access to Australian content.

In our submission, ACCAN explained that some accessibility features are readily included on Australian content, whereas others aren’t available (or aren’t consistently available). This is because there are no clear legislative requirements or protections to ensure access to Australian programming across all platforms.

ACCAN has commented on the proposed update to the Federal Government’s telecommunications in new developments policy.

ACCAN agrees with the policy’s objectives to provide people moving into new developments with ready access to modern telecommunications, both voice and broadband, and to create a competitive market for the provision of such infrastructure. However, ACCAN identified the following areas for improvement in the proposed approach:

Towards the end of 2019, ACCAN started thinking about what a fully accessible communications sector would look like. We wanted to develop a roadmap of shared goals to illustrate what is needed to ensure all people with disability in Australia have full and equal access to communications technologies and services.

In developing the roadmap, ACCAN sought feedback from a range of organisations supporting people with disability. We asked three key questions:

  1. What communications issues do people with disability currently experience?
  2. What communications issues might people with disability experience in the future?
  3. What approaches could help address these existing and anticipated communications issues?

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is developing a trial to assess alternative ways of delivering voice (home phone) services in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas. ACCAN previously commented on how these trials should be designed, run and evaluated. This round of consultation sought comments on the draft Grant Guidelines, Agreement and Application Form.

ACCAN supports the Alternative Voice Services Trials. Our submission makes a number of recommendations to ensure no consumer is worse off by participating in the trials. We also provided feedback on how to make sure the trials are as useful as possible. ACCAN reiterated the need for trialled services to be assessed not just in terms of value for money, but also in terms of quality.

Some of Telstra’s networks are exempt from Parts 7 and 8 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. You can read more about this here. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is seeking comments on Telstra’s request to extend its exemptions for its South Brisbane Velocity and other Velocity phone and internet networks. The current exemptions expire on 30 June 2020, so Telstra has asked the Minister of Communications, Cyber Security and the Arts to extend the exemptions further.

Consumers in the Velocity footprint have a difficult time getting affordable and good quality internet that is suitable to their needs. ACCAN’s submission acknowledged the necessity to grant Telstra’s request this time, otherwise current customers in the Velocity footprints may be left without a service after 30 June 2020. We argued that Telstra’s exemptions should be granted for 2 years at most. We also argued that Telstra should have a plan to sell the networks and should report on this regularly to the ACCC and the Department.

 The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) thanks the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for investigating systemic issues affecting small businesses’ communications services.

“A reliable phone and internet service is fundamental for most modern small businesses,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

“Unfortunately, in the past few years we’ve seen the share of TIO complaints from small businesses continually increase. The TIO’s report helps to identify some of the complex issues that small businesses face when there is a fault with their phone or internet service.”

ACCAN submitted to the ACCC’S draft determination of NBN’s Long-Term Revenue Constraint Methodology (LTRCM) 2018-19. The LTRCM determines NBN’s allowed annual regulated revenue by examining various components such as operating expenditure, depreciation and return on capital.

ACCAN, the Consumers Federation of Australia and the Consumer Action Law Centre jointly submitted to the ACCC’s consultation on authorisation for NBN Co and telecommunications companies who are members of a Special Working Group. The ACCC granted an interim authorisation and is considering issuing a final determination in September.

The authorisation allows members of the group to engage in conduct which would normally be viewed as anticompetitive and illegal. The purpose of the authorisation is so that members of the group can work together to support best performance of the network and hardship measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New complaints data released today suggests that telcos need a customer service shake-up as consumers continue to deal with no or delayed action from telecommunications providers, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of complaints escalated to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) by between January and March 2020 related to issues with no or delayed action from telecommunications providers. An additional 11 per cent of complaints had a resolution agreed to by the telco and consumers, but not met.

ACCAN wrote a submission in response to the draft Reducing Scam Calls Industry Code, released for comment by the Communications Alliance. ACCAN welcomed the draft Code as an acknowledgement of the important role the telecommunications industry can play in the control of scam calls which pose a risk to consumers.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed the passage of the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020. This is a key step to ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of Australians using the COVIDSafe app.

ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said that she was pleased that the legislation was amended to address a number of concerns raised by ACCAN and other consumer groups across the fields of health, technology, privacy, human rights, digital inclusion, communications and community interests.

ACCAN's Talking Telco: phone and internet help made easy. The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has today released Talking Telco, a series of guides to help Australians understand how to connect their phone and internet services and how to get help when things go wrong.

Talking Telco has been supported by the Federal Government, with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP launching ACCAN’s new range of telco consumer advice.

As the current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted, phone and internet services now play an essential role in the everyday lives of Australians.

COVIDSafe app

ACCAN responded to the draft Bill1 regarding the COVIDSafe app in collaboration with 17 organisations flagging concerns of consumer groups across the fields of health, technology, privacy, human rights, digital inclusion, communications and community interests.

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The Telecommunications Reform Package is due in the Senate this week and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) is calling for all sides of politics support passage of the legislation.

The two Bills that comprise the Telecommunications Reform Package include important provisions that will support guaranteed access to reliable telecommunications for all Australians, with an emphasis on regional, rural and remote areas.

The provisions will result in changes to carrier separation rules, provide new statutory infrastructure provider obligations on NBN Co, and will establish the Regional Broadband Scheme to support the partial cross-subsidisation of NBN satellite and fixed wireless services by other network providers.

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Icon Easy English

Easy English focuses on presenting key information rather than all the detail. Words are combined with images to enhance the message for the reader. Ideally, reading an Easy English document is a shared activity between the reader and another person, such as a friend, a family member or support person.

ACCAN has produced the following guides in Easy English.

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Mobile and Internet Everyday Money Saving Tips cover image

Phone and internet bills can quickly add up. To help you keep costs down, we’ve pulled together our top mobile and broadband money saving tips.

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Making a Complaint cover image

If you are unhappy with the service you are receiving from your telco, you can make a complaint.

How to make a complaint

Your telco will have information on their website on how to make a complaint. The steps below can help make it easier:

  1. Clearly state at the beginning that you are making a complaint and explain what it’s about.

  2. Save any emails and keep details of phone conversations (date, time and person you spoke with). If you use live chat on your telco’s website, make sure you save a copy of the conversation. You can do this by taking a screenshot on your computer, phone, or tablet. You can also take a photo of the conversation, or print it out.

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Small Business Making a Complaint cover image

If you are unhappy with the service you are receiving from your telco, you can make a complaint.

Telcos have to follow rules about when small businesses can be disconnected, help they must provide if you can’t pay a bill, and more. If your small business spends less than $40,000 per year with one telco for your internet, landline and mobile phone services, you’re protected by these rules.

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Choosing a Small Business NBN Internet Plan cover image

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s wholesale internet provider. This means that when you sign up for an NBN plan, you must order the service through a telco (e.g. Telstra, Optus, TPG).

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Cant Afford My Bill cover image

Sometimes people are unable to pay their bills due to illness, unemployment, experiences of domestic or family violence, or other changes in circumstances.

It’s important not to ignore your bill, because there is help available.

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Avoiding Phone and Internet cover image

Scammers are constantly changing the ways they work and adapting to new technologies. To keep yourself safe, it’s important to know how scammers can use phones and the internet to try to profit from your personal information.

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Using Your Mobile Phone cover image

Data and internet use

Track your usage

To avoid excess usage charges or running out of data, it’s important to know how much data is included with your phone plan. Once you know your data allowance, you can set a usage limit on your mobile phone. This can be done in your phone’s settings.

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Choosing a Mobile Plan cover image

Prepaid or postpaid?

There are a wide range of pre and postpaid plans available on the market. The main benefit of using postpaid is that you can buy a new phone with these plans, while prepaid plans may be better if you want to avoid unexpected extra charges and already have a mobile phone.

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Connecting and Using Your NBN Home Phone Service cover image

If you live in an urban area, it is likely that your home phone services will no longer be provided on Telstra’s network. Instead they will be provided over the NBN.

This means that even if you only want to keep your home phone service, you still need to connect to the NBN.

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Connecting and Troubleshooting Your NBN Home Internet cover image

Once you have chosen an NBN home internet plan, your telco will organise to have your home connected to the NBN.

Getting connected may differ depending on your home and the area you live in.

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 Choosing An Internet Plan cover image

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s wholesale internet provider. This means that when you sign up for an NBN plan, you will need to order the service through a telco (e.g. Telstra, Optus, Vodafone etc.).

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Subcategories

Picture showing map of Australia and voting box exclaiming 'What communications consumers need to know for the Federal Election 2016'Do you:

Have a mobile phone? 
Use broadband? 
Watch television? 
Stream online content?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then
ACCAN’s Federal Election 2016 webpage is for you.

As the peak body for consumer representation in communications ACCAN – Australian Communications Consumer Action Network – represents your interests to get the best deal for consumers.

For the upcoming Federal Election on 2 July we have identified five communications consumer priorities for 2016. These important issues are our focus in the lead up to and after the election. See below for these priorities.

To find out more about their communications policies, we have posed a series of questions to the major political parties. When the answers are available we will post them on this webpage.

You can read further on our communications consumer priorities by clicking the links below or on the left-hand side of the screen. Get in touch with ACCAN if you have any questions on these topics.

 

Banner image for ACCAN Events picturing ACCAN CEO and industry representatives taking part in a consultative forum.

As part of our commitment to community and industry consultation, ACCAN runs and attends a number of events each year.  Our current and upcoming events are profiled on this page.  ACCAN encourages its Members to profile their communications events through our website.

If you would like any further information regarding our events, or to include your event on our site, please contact us.

You can see the transcripts and speakers' presentations from ACCANect 2019: Communications + Consumers: The next ten years on the conference event page.  If you are looking for information regarding past events it can be found in the events archive.

ACCAN administers an Independent Grants Scheme aimed to support consumer research and consumer representation that helps us achieve our strategic goals

Welcome to the ACCAN employment page.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, ACCAN, a not-for-profit organisation, maintains an accessible work environment and encourages applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, persons with disabilities and people from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds.

ACCAN is Australia’s peak body representing the interests of all consumers in communications issues. ACCAN is an important and independent consumer voice promoting the accessibility, quality of service, affordability and availability of communications services for all Australian consumers with particular concern for vulnerable consumers whose needs are underrepresented.

  • High profile consumer body
  • Communications industry
  • Diverse, interesting role working in vibrant NGO
  • Supportive work environment
  • Sydney CBD location with easy access to public transport


The quarterly ACCAN members magazine casts a spotlight on our most recent work, discusses current trends and contains exclusive interviews with a broad range of players in the telecommunications sector. If you'd like to start receiving your own hard copy of the ACCAN magazine, simply sign up to become an ACCAN member today.

Our collection of past ACCAN members magazines are available to download below.

 

Media Releases

ACCAN's work informs public debate about consumer issues in the communications landscape.  Welcome to our collection of the latest news and current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

Sign up for ACCAN's weekly newsletter to have these news items emailed to you each week.

Media enquiries:
Mobile: 0409 966 931 (calls only, no texts please)
Phone: 02 9288 4000
media (at) accan.org.au

 

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Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

Sign up for ACCAN's weekly newsletter to have these news items sent to your email address each week.

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There's no doubt communications are essential to our daily lives but with technology moving fast, sometimes it's hard to keep up!

We produce a range of tip sheets that provide simple tips and tricks to help with a range of common telecommunications issues.