Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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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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Image of sign postLast week ACCAN's CEO, Teresa Corbin, and Director of Policy, Una Lawrence, travelled to the Electorate of Indi (northeast Victoria) to meet with residents and discuss issues around telecommunications services.

ACCAN was invited to attend community meetings and a meeting with local government representatives and businesses by Indi's Federal Member of Parliament, Cathy McGowan. Meetings were held in Beechworth, Wangaratta, Benalla and Oxley.

The issues experienced by residents are not unique to Indi and are experienced by many living in rural and remote areas. Availability and accessibility of quality communications services are key focus areas of ACCAN's work.

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If you haven't already registered for the ACCAN Conference you can still take advantage of early bird pricing until Friday, 31 July! Head to the Conference website to register now.

As you may already know, this year's Conference, Dollars and Bytes – Communications affordability now and tomorrow, focuses on the key issue of affordability. This is an issue that affects all consumers.

The program for the two days (1-2 September) is shaping up to be one of our best yet. Some highlights will include:

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Farmer talking on mobile phoneThe Regional Telecommunications Review is an opportune time to take stock of telecommunications policy in Australia. Whether it is an oversubscribed interim satellite service or a Universal Service Obligation that hasn't been brought into the 21st Century, regional consumers are frequently left with shocking network performance and few avenues for redress.

ACCAN often hears the horror stories about regional communications. From a farmer in rural WA who despite successive 'repairs' had to hold his landline handset 10cm away from his ear to hear over the static; to the outdoor recreation business which may soon have to close after a loss of customers due to an unreliable booking phone line; and the school children who have to stop lessons 20 days into the month because their restrictive satellite data quota has been used up.

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Nominations for Directors to fill three vacancies on the ACCAN Board are now open. Nominations close at 5pm on Monday 3rd August, 2015.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution, the 2015-16 ACCAN Board will consist of nine members. Six positions are continuing Directors from the 2014-2015 Board. Three Directors are retiring from the Board but will be eligible for re-election as stated in the ACCAN Constitution.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution Board members are eligible for a three year term.

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This year, ACCAN's National Conference will focus on the wide ranging issue of communications affordability. Affordability is a key focus area for ACCAN because it affects all consumers. For more information or to register, visit the Conference website.

With the Conference coming up (on 1-2 September), we thought we'd take a look back at our past Conferences to reflect on our past achievements and show you why you should attend ACCAN's 2015 National Conference, Dollars and Bytes – Communications affordability now and tomorrow.

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ACCAN Conference logo

Affordability of communications products is an issue that affects all consumers - from young people to families and seniors. At ACCAN's National Conference there will be lively discussions on a range of topics including the extent of the affordability divide, affordability barriers, and an exploration of international initiatives as well as the role of industry, government and consumers in resolving affordability issues.

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Phone Rights appSince launching in 2013, ACCAN's My Phone Rights app has helped thousands of Australians to better understand their rights as telecommunications consumers. The guides and tips in the app cover a range of topics that are helpful to all telecommunications consumers. My Phone Rights is available now for free on Android and Apple iOS devices.

With the app turning two this year, we thought it was time to revamp the tips and advice to keep up to date with the latest information. After all, the telco industry changes at such a rapid pace.

The app has advice for consumers and also small businesses on how to resolve common phone and internet issues including issues with contracts, bill shock, global roaming and data charges.

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Beginning 14 April 2015, the ABC will start trialling Audio Description on its iview online catch-up service. The trial will provide approximately 14 hours of audio described content each week and is expected to run for 15 months.

Audio Description is additional verbal narration that describes visual elements shown on screen during pauses in dialogue. It can describe elements such as scenes, costumes and actions.

Audio Description is important and useful for people with a vision impairment and people with a learning disability as it helps to enhance their understanding of what is happening on screen.

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Group of people holding smartphonesComplaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) about excess data charges have been steadily dropping over the past year. This is most likely due to better value excess data packs (most telcos now charge about $10 for 1GB) and plans with bigger data allowances being offered by the telcos.

While complaints are down, excess data charges can still be a shock on your monthly bill, especially if you are on a tight budget. Extra data packs that automatically kick in are convenient, but most of these data packs expire when your monthly billing period is up. It is important to watch your data usage because you may spend extra money on data that you might not get to use.

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