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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 Australian Communications Consumer Action network (ACCAN), with support from Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Alastair McEwin, calls on the Turnbull Government to increase access services for people of all abilities across free-to-air television – which is still our foremost medium for news, information and entertainment. ACCAN is calling for increased captioning across free-to-air multi-channels (like Go and 7Mate) and for the introduction of 14 hours of audio description on ABC and SBS. The call for more accessible television coincides with Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

“The government’s recently announced proposal to eliminate television broadcast licence fees, resulting in a $90 million per year windfall for broadcasters, should be contingent on broadcasters providing greater access services for viewers with disability,” said ACCAN Disability Policy Advisor, Wayne Hawkins. “We have been told for many years that these access services are just not sustainable from both the industry and the government. However, this huge windfall should allow broadcasters to finally make television more accessible to Australians.”

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the ACCC’s draft decision to not declare a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service. In its submission to the ACCC Inquiry, ACCAN questioned whether regulated domestic roaming would result in better mobile coverage and improved competition in regional, rural and remote areas. ACCAN notes the ACCC’s finding that there is insufficient evidence that declaring domestic mobile roaming would lower prices for rural and regional consumers.

“ACCAN is a strong advocate for better mobile coverage and improved competition in regional and rural areas,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Consumers and small businesses in regional, rural and remote areas want additional coverage where they live, work and travel. It’s unclear whether declaring domestic mobile roaming would achieve this.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network in Melbourne today to highlight the need for service standards and to present solutions to problems faced by consumers in the NBN rollout.

“It is fair to say that for a number of consumers the rollout has not been seamless,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “The NBN is a large project that affects most Australians. The problems faced by consumers have been wide ranging from confusion and misconceptions about what NBN is, to overcoming difficulties in getting and using services.

“To ensure services meet consumer needs, both in the medium and long term, access to a network needs to be guaranteed in legislation. The service and underlying network also need to meet customer service standards. The responsibilities for the network provider and the retailers need to be clear. This would help to stop the finger pointing about who is to blame when services are not working and get resolutions more quickly for consumers.”

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has welcomed a new broadband performance monitoring program to be administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Announced last Friday, the program will see Australian consumers receive independent information about broadband speeds based on feedback from remote testing at more than 4000 households.

“This is a welcome measure and we congratulate the Australian Government on the initiative," Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO, Teresa Corbin said.

“The top complaint about internet services to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is in relation to faulty services and slow speeds, indicating there is a gap between consumer expectations of how their services will perform, and actual performance.

“We hear you and we want to help” was the majority message from politicians in Canberra this week when they met with the Regional, Rural & Remote Communications Coalition.

The Coalition met with more than 50 members of parliament over two days with the aim of highlighting the plight of telecommunications in the bush.

National Farmers' Federation President, Fiona Simson, said it was heartening that politicians understood the perils of an inability to access affordable and reliable telecommunications however action was what was needed now.

"Actions speak louder than words. Consensus by all politicians that this is a vital issue is yet another validation that now is the time for action towards solving the great #datadrought," Ms Simson said.

Key telecommunication consumer and social welfare groups today called on the Productivity Commission to consider more fully affordability issues in the Inquiry on the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (USO). The national peak body for communications consumers, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), backed the submission from the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) to the Inquiry. SACOSS argues that the Commission’s Draft Report and recommendations underestimate the challenges faced by many Australian households in paying for telecommunications. The Draft Report proposes incorporating broadband as a baseline universal service, but largely dismisses telecommunications affordability issues as limited in scope and relevance. SACOSS is highlighting these issues to the Productivity Commission at a public hearing for the Inquiry today.

“The Universal Service Obligation is a crucial element in ensuring that all Australians have access to modern communications which are necessary for commerce, education, social inclusion and dealing with government,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Affordable services must be a big part of that equation so that all consumers can access the benefits offered by being connected to the internet.

In its Pre-Budget Submission for the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has urged the Federal Government to allocate funding to telecommunications initiatives that will benefit consumers. ACCAN’s recommendations include ongoing funding for the Mobile Black Spot Program, ongoing funding to ensure that the Universal Service Obligation (USO) continues until new safeguards and programs are in place and funding for a broadband performance monitoring program.

“The Mobile Black Spot Program is delivering new or improved coverage for many areas across the country,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “The first two rounds of the Program will fund more than 750 new or upgraded mobile base stations, but there are many more mobile black spots that need funding, which is why we’re calling for ongoing funding for the Program in our Pre-Budget Submission.”

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.

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