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Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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Smartphone next to Christmas treeNo doubt many of us are looking forward to getting a new smartphone for Christmas. But before you rush out to purchase the latest device for a loved one or yourself, there are a few things you should consider.

While price is likely to be a key decider, there are other factors to look at. Here are our top tips to keep in mind before purchasing a new smartphone or signing up to a new phone contract during the festive season.

Mobile coverage

The P3 CommsDay Mobile Benchmark 2015 tested the three Australian mobile networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone), giving a snapshot of the mobile coverage in larger cities, smaller towns and on highways around Australia. The Benchmark is an independent test that measures the quality of phone calls, and 4G and 3G data downloads.

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Woman using computerToday on the International Day of People with Disability Vision Australia has launched the Document Accessibility Toolbar (DAT) – a tool that makes it quick and easy to create accessible documents in Microsoft Word.

With funding under the ACCAN Grants Scheme, the DAT was created by accessibility experts from Vision Australia's Digital Access consultancy. The Toolbar adds a simple menu to Microsoft Word with a range of functions to optimise and check a document for accessibility. This means that for Word users creating documents and trying to make them accessible for people with disabilities, a set of dedicated functions will be available in a centralised location to make the process easy. The tool is easy to download and is made to be used by people with limited experience with accessibility.

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Teresa CorbinEach year the telecommunications industry recognises an individual for outstanding contributions to telecommunications. Today the Charles Todd medal was awarded to ACCAN's CEO, Teresa Corbin, for her efforts representing consumer interests spanning some 20 years in the industry. As members and supporters of ACCAN know, Teresa's dedication and commitment to ensuring consumers have a voice at the table is second to none, she tirelessly champions affordability, accessibility and availability of communications services for all Australian consumers.

In her speech of thanks, Teresa stressed the importance of addressing consumer interests in the marketplace and noted that the best outcomes were achieved when consumers and industry worked together constructively.

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Seniors using laptopsDigital inclusion ensures that no one is left behind as we move towards an increasingly digital future. For Social Inclusion Week 2015, we thought we'd outline why digital inclusion is vital for all Australians.

While many of us have smartphones and access to the internet at home, there are some consumers who don't. Two issues often cited as barriers to digital inclusion are affordability and a lack of digital literacy.

Affordability divide

Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2012–13, 98 per cent of households with a household income of $120,000 or more had internet access, compared to only 57 per cent of households with a household income of less than $40,000, suggesting an 'affordability divide' when it comes to broadband.

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shutterstock 196784018 - smallAll across Australia Schoolies celebrations are about to begin for many year 12 students. While travelling for Schoolies, or celebrating at parties, young people will undoubtedly have their smartphones with them along the way.

Below we've put together some tips for young people to ensure they use their smartphones safely.

Avoid risky behaviours

What happens at Schoolies doesn't always stay at Schoolies - especially if it's recorded in an image or video on a smartphone.

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Smartphone, tablet, laptop and headphonesLast week, ACCAN's Disability Policy Advisor, Wayne Hawkins, presented at the NDIS New World Conference 2015 in Brisbane. The theme for the Conference was: Disability in the 21st century.

The event featured speakers from a range of organisations including Apple, National Disability Services, Ernst and Young and the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Wayne sat on the panel of the Universal Accessibility session, facilitated by Sean Fitzgerald, Director C3 Solutions. Other panellists included James Thurston from G3ictr, Daniel Hubbell from Microsoft and Dr Scott Hollier from Media Access Australia.

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Teenage girls using smartphonesMore and more parents are purchasing phones for their teenage children. Research from the ACMA in 2013 showed that 67 per cent of 12 to 13 year olds had a mobile phone. Mobile phones make keeping in touch with teenagers easy, but having a mobile phone also means greater responsibility for teens.

In this article we look at what parents should know before purchasing a mobile phone for their child.

Teens and parents need to be aware of the costs of a smartphone. These can be expensive especially if they exceed their monthly limits. A pre-paid plan may be a good option for a teenager because there's no risk of bill shock.

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Recently ACCAN has heard reports of consumers having to replace their NBN backup batteries earlier than expected, sometimes while under warranty.

Prior to October 2014, it was mandatory to have a backup battery in an NBN box for services in fibre to the premises areas. It is now an optional feature.

Not all consumers need to have a backup battery. You only need to have one if other services are reliant on your connection, or if you have no alternative access to emergency services (e.g. via mobile services) when there is a power outage. These services include medical alarms and fixed-line telephones.

The recent reports suggest that many consumers are finding that their backup battery has needed replacing sooner than expected. ACCAN is concerned that poor quality batteries may cost consumers extra money if they keep needing to be replaced. The process of replacing a battery may be difficult for some consumers. We are concerned that some may require the assistance of a technician when replacing the battery which would also add to the costs.

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The Bureau of Communications Research (BCR), a unit established last year in the Department of Communications and the Arts, was asked by the Government to consider the funding of the National Broadband Network (NBN) to regional Australia. The initial policy arrangement saw nbn funding the services, covering any losses internally from other areas of the network. The Government policy now is to distribute the cost further than the nbn network.

The BCR has produced a consultation paper presenting their preliminary findings. Below is a summary of these findings.

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

Find resouces on political party policies, election issues and more.