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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 Telecommunications Reform Package legislation, introduced to Parliament today, includes a guarantee for all premises to access broadband services.

National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive, Tony Mahar said the legislation was a win for the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition and the consumers it represented.

"This is a significant first step to ensuring all premises across the country have access to broadband services, capable of at least 25Mbps per second download and 5Mbps upload speeds."

Mr Mahar said the Coalition was glad to see other improvements to the Bill, which aim to stop the handballing of complaints between network and internet providers and to get complaints addressed more quickly.

"The bill also allows regional services to be funded sustainably and transparently into the future with the Regional Broadband Scheme.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes changes to the Telecommunications Reform Package legislation introduced into Parliament today as a big win for all consumers. A number of ACCAN’s concerns will be addressed by the legislation as it contains improved consumer protections.

In particular, ACCAN is pleased to see these changes:

  • Statutory Infrastructure Provider provisions will now ensure that all premises can access a network capable of delivering peak retail plans of 25Mbps download speed and 5Mbps upload speeds.
  • That no areas will be exempt from the provision.
  • Voice capability will be ensured over fixed line and fixed wireless areas.

The Regional Broadband Scheme, which is also included in the legislation, will ensure regional services are funded sustainably and transparently. There are economic and societal benefits in having everyone connected, therefore ensuring that broadband services are funded sustainably into the future is vital.

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.”

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