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Teenagers using smartphonesAustralians are spending more time on their mobile phones and we're using more mobile data than ever before.

According to the ACMA Communications Report 2013-14, in the quarter ending June 2014, Australians downloaded 38,734 terabytes of data on mobile devices – a 97.3 per cent increase when compared to the same quarter a year earlier!

With the introduction of 4G, our data needs are forecasted to grow even more. Because of this, it's important to take into account how your provider counts your data and how much they charge for excess data.

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The 2015 edition of the P3 CommsDay Mobile Benchmark Australia shows improved results from the three carriers tested – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Now in its second year, the benchmark compares the three network operators against each other and also against their scores last year.

ACCAN congratulates P3 and CommsDay on this important initiative because it provides consumers with independent benchmarking so they can make informed decisions. Improved consumer decision making is one of ACCAN's Policy Priorities for 2015-16.

The benchmark measures smartphone voice and data performance and is based on weeks of extensive testing around the country. The tests measure voice call quality, success rates, download and upload speeds, website access and video streaming performance.

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Kids using smartphoneThe internet offers exciting opportunities and experiences for kids and teens. But for some parents it can seem like a dark forest fraught with danger.
While there are great aspects of technology, it should be remembered that the internet could potentially expose children to harmful content, cyberbullying or contact with strangers.

To coincide with Stay Smart Online Week, we're sharing our top tips for online safety for kids and teens.

How to approach cybersafety

It's more than likely that your kids are using computers or tablets regularly at home and at school. In fact a 2013 study from the ACMA found that 95 per cent of eight to 11 year olds had accessed the internet 'in the last four weeks.'

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Woman holding childAfter experiencing a traumatic marriage breakdown, Michelle* fled with her children to a safe location expecting to be free of the violence they had experienced. Over the ensuing months she found herself encountering her ex-husband in all sorts of locations unexpectedly, and started to face the abuse all over again. He then moved to sending abusive text messages, so Michelle changed her number, only to start receiving them again soon after.

Unable to understand why this was happening, Michelle sought the help of an IT savvy friend, only to discover her children had tracking software on their phones and that her computer also had spyware which her ex-husband had been using to keep track of her. This is known as 'technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.'

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Family using mobile devicesMobile providers are now offering sharing plans for people to share data among devices and people. Each of the telcos has different approaches and options for sharing across plans. In this article we outline the plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and some things to watch out for.

Before you sign up to any sharing plans we advise you to consider the usage patterns of each individual user. When looking at plans it pays to shop around and find the plan that suits each individual user.

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Man watches TV wearing headphonesLast week Vision Australia and a number of people who are blind or have low vision met with MPs at an event in Canberra to demonstrate audio description and lobby for its inclusion on TV. The event was organised in partnership with Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, and was co-sponsored by Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull MP, and Shadow Minister for Communications, Jason Clare MP.

Audio description on television is a verbal description - provided during gaps in dialogue - of visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes. You can get a sense of how it works from Vision Australia's YouTube video.

Vision Australia's Tell the whole story campaign encourages the Federal Government to implement audio description on Australian television so it can be enjoyed by the 350,000 people who are blind or have low vision.

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The ACCAN Annual General Meeting was held in Sydney on Wednesday, 2 September, 2015. At the meeting the following three candidates were elected to the Board:

  • Sandra Milligan
  • Ryan Sengara
  • Chris Dodds

Congratulations to returning directors Sandra and Ryan and a warm welcome to Chris who is joining the ACCAN Board for the first time.

These three new Board members join the six continuing Directors below whose terms conclude at the 2015 and 2016 ACCAN AGM.

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Website splash 12May15Our 2015 Conference, Dollars and Bytes – Communications affordability now and tomorrow, is fast approaching! Only one week to go, so now is the time to register before registration closes at midnight on Friday, 28 August. (Due to browser settings some people may have trouble connecting to the registration site using Firefox. If this is the case, please use another browser such as Google chrome).

It's going to be a great two days. We've got over 40 speakers and panellists from a range of organisations across industry, community groups and government.

Access the full Conference Program online. Some of the presentations and sessions to look forward to are:

  • The keynote by Claire Milne, Visiting Senior Fellow, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics
  • The opening address by the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for Communications
  • Presentation by ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims
  • Presentation by Digital Transformation Office CEO, Paul Shetler

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Apps for all logo - horizontal pink

With the 2015 ACCAN Conference fast approaching, we can now reveal the shortlist for the second Apps For All Challenge!

The Challenge acknowledges those Australian developed apps which are most accessible for all consumers, including consumers living with a disability or older Australians. An accessible app is designed with the largest number of people in mind. Accessibility is not only crucial for the almost 1 in 5 Australians living with some form of disability, but it also means developers can target millions more customers who were previously locked out of the app market. Man holding a tablet with App icons floating out.

This year’s Challenge is sponsored by Telstra. The lucky winners will receive a cash prize from Telstra as well as promotion through Telstra’s social media channels.

We’ll be announcing the winners at a ceremony on 1 September at our National Conference, Dollars and Bytes – Communications affordability now and tomorrow. You can register here to attend.

Good luck to all of the shortlisted apps and developers!

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Image: Raindrops on Windows 10 logo After a lot of hype, Microsoft has finally delivered Windows 10.

With a bunch of new features and improvements, such as a good firewall and rapid start-up of your favourite programs, it is a very attractive computer interface, but there is a real sting in the tail if you are someone on a restricted internet plan!

First of all to upgrade to Windows 10 you have to download the whole thing from Microsoft.

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Claire Milne headshotThis year our keynote speaker for the ACCAN National Conference is Claire Milne, MBE, Visiting Senior Fellow, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics.

Claire will bring a wealth of knowledge to the ACCAN Conference. She has worked in the telecoms sector since 1975 and held a series of management jobs within BT, including teletraffic theory, exchange and network design and regulation. Since 1989, she has been a consultant, first with Ovum and then in her own company Antelope Consulting. She has been a Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE since 2003. From 2008 - 2014 she chaired the Consumer Forum for Communications at Ofcom.

We interviewed Claire to get insights into her views on communications affordability in the lead up to the ACCAN Conference.

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Family with laptop, tablet and smartphoneAccess to affordable telecommunications for all consumers is one of ACCAN's three key objectives. Affordability is becoming increasingly important as access to telecommunications services is essential for full economic, social and cultural participation.

For example, the main method of communicating with many government agencies is increasingly through online channels and, with the Coalition Government's Digital First Strategy, this will only become more widespread. This Strategy will require all government services and public interactions to be available online by 2017.

In order for the Digital First Strategy to be a success, all Australians need to have access to the internet. There are a number of factors that contribute to a lack of internet uptake, and affordability is often found to be a factor.

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