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Image of a calculator Telecommunication services are essential for ensuring public health and safety, promoting access to educational and employment opportunities as well as social inclusiveness. ACCAN’s Pre-Budget Submission 2019-20 identifies market gaps and provides recommendations on telecommunications initiatives that will benefit consumers including:

The Federal Government is reviewing consumer protections in telecommunications. The aim is to ascertain whether existing arrangements will be fit for purpose in an environment where NBN is the underlying infrastructure provider, and consumer use of services has changed considerably since the existing framework was developed. The review is divided into three parts:

  • Part A – Redress and Complaints Handling - completed in 2018.
  • Part B – Reliability of Services - launched in November 2018 with submissions closing 18 January 2019.
  • Part C – Choice and Fairness - expected in the first half of 2019.

Parts 7 and 8 of the Telecommunications Act provide an important basis to ensure that broadband networks operate in a similar way and to the benefit of consumers. They require network operators to offer services to any retail providers on request (offer open access on a non-discriminatory basis) and that they must operate separate to the retail level (wholesale only). While these specify the operation of networks, the ultimate aim is to ensure competitive networks exist that benefit consumer by increasing choice of providers.

Since 2012 Telstra have had an exemption to comply with these requirements in the South Brisbane network area. Telstra have now requested a further extension, with the Minister for Communications and the Arts has proposing an extension to January 2020 (designated day).

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently undertook a Review of the Emergency Call Service (ECS) Determination. The ECS Determination imposes requirements on carriers, carriage service providers and emergency call persons regarding access to the emergency call service. The purpose of this Review was to consider whether the ECS Determination is still relevant and whether its obligations remain consistent and robust. This Review was recommended by the Department of Communications and the Arts, in its report into the Triple Zero service disruptions in May 2018.

ACCAN made a submission to the ACMA’s Review, in which we provided recommendations about how the emergency call service could be made more accessible and more reliable.

ACCAN has made a brief submission to the Senate Inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services. We highlighted the value of Australian content for people with disability in particular, and outlined that 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 made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The Assistance and Access Bill seeks to amend current legislation to facilitate access by law enforcement agencies to the content of stored communications, such as texts, emails and call data.

ACCAN has expressed serious concerns about the Bill, alongside many other Australian and global stakeholders, including those from the telecommunications industry, technology sector, human rights and consumer organisations. In its current form the Bill will provide access to consumers’ data without their knowledge or adequate judicial oversight. The Bill will act to weaken encryption systems by forcing technology companies, device manufacturers, and other relevant parties, to build into their software and systems an entry-point (or backdoor) to encrypted data.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.

In this consultation the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asked for comments on the principles that will underpin the drafting of rules for the consumer data right, prior to the draft rules being released. The rules will provide detail about how the consumer data right is to be implemented, privacy protections for consumers and the obligations of businesses. ACCAN will comment further on the consumer data rights when the draft rules are released later this year.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.
In this consultation The Treasury is asking for further comments on the draft legislation that will underpin the consumer data right, before the legislation is introduced into Federal Parliament. ACCAN’s initial comments on the draft legislation are available here.

ACCAN lodged a submission with the ACCC on its fixed line services declaration inquiry. The inquiry relates to the services that Telstra sells on its copper network to other providers of phone and internet services.

The ACCC is proposing to maintain the regulation of the services Telstra provides for further 5 year period. ACCAN agrees with the ACCC’s position.

Once the ACCC makes its final decision, it will then consider the prices Telstra charges other providers to use its network.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) on its investigation of TPG Telecom Limited’s (TPG) proposed merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Limited (VHA).

ACCAN is supportive of the proposed merger as it is likely to lead to more sustainable competition with a positive effect for consumers in the Australian telecommunications market. 

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Technology consultation.

The issues paper asked which human rights can be affected by technology, and what issues technology can raise for different groups of people. The issues paper included some questions that specifically related to people with disability and the accessibility of technology, including what challenges and opportunities people with disability experience when accessing technology and how the development and use of more accessible technology can be encouraged and promoted in Australia.

ACCAN focused on the human rights of people with disability in our submission. We made the following key points:

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Facilities Access Code consultation.

The discussion paper asked whether improvements could be made to the code which provides a process for carriers to access each other’s infrastructure, co-locate equipment and co-build facilities in order to reduce the cost of providing services and protecting community amenity through duplication of infrastructure. The code also provides voluntary consultation and negotiation processes for carriers as well as a framework for dispute resolution in the event that they cannot agree on access arrangements.

Although the code has been largely successful in promoting co-location and reducing duplication, there are indications that in regional areas it has been less effective. There are also some indications that carriers may have incentives to preclude access or co-location where there are commercial advantages to doing so.

ACCAN made the following key points: