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Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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Model house sitting on top of moneyRecently the ACCC announced that Telstra will offer remedies to around 42,000 customers. This announcement has been widely reported on in the past week. There is some confusion around the issue and who is entitled to a remedy. This blog attempts to clear up this confusion.

What is the issue?

While there are a number of issues that consumers are reporting with services over the NBN, this compensation relates to a very specific problem where the maximum download speed consumers paid for was never possible at their premises.

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Computer screen showing web address barMany Australian not-for-profit organisations and businesses currently have domain names for their internet presences under the second level domains. For example: *.com.au and *.org.au. Domain names are used to find resources and services on the internet such as web pages (eg www.accan.org.au) and email addresses (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Recently, auDA, the body responsible for Australia’s domain name system agreed to introduce ‘direct registrations’. This is where your chosen internet domain name does not use the familiar “.com.au”, “.net.au”, “.org.au”, and new names will be simply “orgname.au”.

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Man using mobile phoneIn the flurry of media this week about the TIO Annual Report and 41 per cent increase in telecommunication complaints received, Communication Alliance and nbn both made reassuring comments about the state of the problem.

But how reassured should we be?

Communications Alliance is “pleased” that in the last three months the rate of complaints slightly decreased (from 9 per 10,000 services in operation between Apr-Jun 2017 to 8.3 per 10,000 Jul- Sept 2017).

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Hands holding a tablet that displays smarthome controlsConsumers are increasingly buying Internet-connected appliances for their homes. Often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), the range of internet-connected products already available includes not only the obvious things like Smart TVs, gaming consoles, security and safety cameras, but smart light bulbs, sewing machines and even dishwashers.

Telstra says the average home already has 11 or 12 connected devices and predicts that by 2020 a typical home will have about 30.

As well as being useful by enabling us to remotely manage our home environments, many of these devices also collect a lot of data. Conceivably, this data collection can pose huge risks to consumers’ privacy and security.

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Hand holding a connected worldHave you noticed how more and more everyday items are now connected to the internet?

While we used to have ordinary watches that told us the time and the date, we now have smartwatches that track our fitness, alert us about emails and more.

We are told that we can expect many things in our homes will be connected, our cars will be connected and we will see even more connected ‘wearable’ devices in the future. These new devices and services raise many questions and concerns for consumers.

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Mentor and learner in the Leep in LabThe 2017 Australian Digital Inclusion Index showed that overall digital inclusion is growing in Australia.

Since 2014, when data was first collected for the Index, Australia’s overall digital inclusion score has improved by 3.8 points, from 52.7 to 56.5.

The Index also found that gaps between digitally included and excluded Australians are “substantial and widening.”

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The ACCAN Annual General Meeting was held in Sydney on Thursday, 21 September, 2017. At the meeting the following three candidates were elected to the Board:

  • Deirdre O’Donnell
  • Victoria Rubensohn
  • Holly Raiche

Congratulations to returning director, Victoria, and a warm welcome back to Holly who re-joins the ACCAN Board after a short break. We also extend a warm welcome to Deidre who joins the ACCAN Board for the first time.

These three new Board members join the six continuing Directors below whose terms conclude at the 2018 and 2019 ACCAN AGM:

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Man using smartphone on street at nightWe’re pleased to announce the successful Grants for 2017-18. This year the projects look at a range of communications consumer issues including the growing spyware marketplace, how consumers can access their online data, the needs of those living in rural, regional and remote communities, and ways telecommunications providers can better engage with people with disability.

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.

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Woman using sign language in front of smartphoneThe Australian Communications Consumer Action network (ACCAN) has a strong membership base of disability organisations and individuals with disability. The most consistent feedback we get from these members relates to the lack of available information about telecommunications equipment and services for people with disability. The difficulty of accessing telecommunications for people with disability in Australia has long been recognised as a fundamental contributor to the disability digital divide.

While there is a growing number of new and emerging telecommunication products which can improve access and participation for people with disability, without information about these products and how to access them, people with disability will continue to be left out of our increasingly connected digital society.

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