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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. 

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The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition is concerned reliable home phone services in the bush may be soon put at risk under proposed changes to the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Members of the Coalition have today appeared at the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the USO in Sydney.

As part of the Inquiry, the Productivity Commission is examining the possibility of changing how voice services are delivered, so that the NBN network is primarily used to deliver voice services. This could affect rural and remote consumers who are using the nbn Sky Muster satellite and have little to no access to mobile services. Effectively this could mean future voice services for rural and remote Australians could be delivered via satellite.

“While we acknowledge the logic in transitioning to more modern infrastructure, this does not escape the fact that in rural and remote areas a majority of users would be serviced via satellite which does not provide the same reliability or performance to what is currently available,” said Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO, Teresa Corbin.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) will tomorrow appear before the Productivity Commission at a public hearing in Sydney to voice concerns about its Draft Inquiry Report on the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The USO underpins consumers’ access to phone services, including payphones. While many may have never heard about the USO, it is an important obligation that aims to ensure voice services are available and accessible to all Australians.

“Unfortunately, the USO is stuck in the past and is not relevant for all the services that consumers need these days, including broadband – something which we are thankful the Productivity Commission has recognised,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “However, the direction that the Commission is advising may put some consumers at risk of a reduced service level, and being isolated from society and the community.”

Phone and internet are essential services which should be available to all consumers. The mechanism to deliver these services needs to be reformed to ensure that it is independently accountable and transparent. Many consumer rights and protections hang off of the USO, so it is vital that the frame work which establishes the baseline services is solid.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition has welcomed the release of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) draft report into the Universal Service Obligation (USO) with its finding that the current arrangements are in need of reform, sooner rather than later.

Achieving a USO that is technology neutral and that provides access to both voice and data is one of the fundamental pillars that prompted the formation of this Coalition.

NSW Farmers Association President, Derek Schoen, said: “It is pleasing that the PC has recognised that the current USO agreement is out of date and that voice and broadband access should be part of the USO into the future.

A group of like-minded advocacy groups have come together to end the data drought by forming the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition to champion better communications services for consumers and small businesses living in rural, remote or regional areas.

The Coalition includes the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Country Women’s Association of NSW, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and AgForce Queensland.

“The Coalition was formed to highlight the collective concerns of families, businesses and communities in rural and regional Australia about the lack of equitable access to reliable and quality telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin said.

Report cover image of locked mobile phone displaying $10 noteA major report into telecommunications affordability today launched jointly by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) highlights concerns about low-income consumers in staying connected to telecommunications services.

The report, Connectivity Costs: Telecommunications Affordability for Low-Income Australians, which was based on a survey of over 500 Centrelink recipients and low-income Health Care Card holders, as well as a series of focus groups, found that:

  • 66 per cent of respondents rated telecommunications among the five most important factors in their household budget; but
  • 62 per cent reported difficulty paying, having to cut back or that they had stopped using one or more telecommunications services for financial reasons in the last 12 months.

In a speech at the CommsDay Melbourne Congress 2016, ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, outlined eight major priority areas for ACCAN in 2016-17. The consumer centred priorities relate to ACCAN’s core focus area of achieving affordable, available and accessible communications products and services for all Australians.

As an organisation, ACCAN represents all residential consumers and small businesses, including not-for-profit organisations. Each policy priority aims to address a segment of the market that is not working for a group or groups within Australia.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has launched its ‘Get Connected’ consumer resource which includes a mapping tool and a series of useful steps for consumers who are struggling to get an ADSL connection while they are waiting for NBN to arrive in their area. Issues accessing ADSL services have become a common complaint for consumers, particularly those who move into new areas.

The mapping tool helps consumers to understand the reasons that may be preventing them from getting an ADSL service. For example, if there are few ports available at the local exchange, if the neighbourhood is too far from an exchange or if the exchange is not ADSL enabled. The NBN will be connecting all areas and offering fast broadband connections for consumers. However, some consumers may be waiting months or years for the NBN to reach them. This mapping tool and accompanying useful steps will help them to make a decision about what services would meet their needs in the short to medium term.

ACCAN’s 2016 National Conference, ACCANect: Equipping Consumers to Stay Connected, kicks off this morning with a focus on empowering consumers to get and stay connected to the phone and broadband services they need. Over two days the event will cover a range of topics including digital inclusion, affordability and digital government.

“We’re looking forward to exploring the issues that consumers face in getting connected particularly as our reliance on broadband to access services, education and employment opportunities grows,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Over the two days we’ll hear from experts about new research into digital inclusion and affordability. Sessions at the event will feature panel discussions on how we bridge the divide and get everyone connected and will examine barriers to getting connected.”

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) believes that consumers need more information on broadband speeds and that this information should be clear and presented upfront. Broadband performance issues are the highest growing area of consumer complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, and ACCAN is regularly contacted by consumers about unusable broadband services.

ACCAN’s submission to the ACCC’s consultation on broadband speed claims highlights that information provided to consumers about broadband speeds is often confusing and can also be misleading as claimed speeds frequently don’t match reality.

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