Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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Outback mobile tower and windmillThe first of many issues in 2017 to be a focus for the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition was the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report for the Inquiry into 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.

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NBN satellite ground station, Wolumla, AustraliaThe Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition is urging the approximately 1200 households who have not yet switched from the Interim Satellite Service (ISS) to the Sky Muster National Broadband Network (nbn) satellite service to do so as soon as possible.

"These households need to switch before 28 February or they will be left without an internet service. They should contact their preferred provider as soon as practicable to arrange a new service," NFF President Fiona Simson said.

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Magnifying glass on top of documentThis week a Federal Parliamentary Committee is expected to report on a draft bill to amend the Competition and Consumer Act telco specific provisions. In this blog we will outline our assessment of the impact on consumers. This is the approach we took in our response to the Department of Communications and the Arts consultation on the proposed changes in October 2016.

Not surprisingly, Telstra is generally supportive of the removal of the telco specific rules. However, other telecommunications industry providers are taking a different approach as they believe the removal of the specific rules would weaken competition in the telco sector.

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Laptop on a  deskBroadband is now considered essential to provide access to services and employment opportunities, as well as entertainment and education. This is true for all consumers, no matter whether they live in regional, rural or remote areas or in the cities.

Reliable broadband connections are also pivotal for small businesses and farmers who often rely on them to run their businesses. Internet connections provide opportunities for farmers to use sophisticated agricultural software to monitor yield predictions and more. But when services fail, there are no guarantees that apply to internet services to ensure faults are fixed within certain timeframes. This can result in long outages, meaning lost money and productivity for farmers and small businesses, and frustration for general consumers.

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Grand Intentions book coverGrand Intentions, a new novel by Professor Trevor Barr, was inspired by the Australian telco industry. The novel tells the story of a fictitious telecommunications company, Telco One, as it undergoes major changes.

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Kate CarnellMany small businesses rely on telecommunication services to operate. When services do not deliver, this can result in losses for small business owners.

To get insights into what telecommunication issues small businesses are facing and hear more about what they need from their services, we interviewed the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell.

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Senior man using mobile phoneThe Australian mobile network providers have all announced the switch off of their 2G networks:

  • Optus’ 2G network will switch off from 3 April, 2017
  • Vodafone’s 2G network will switch off on 30 September, 2017
  • Telstra’s 2G network was switched off on 1 December, 2016

This article has information for consumers using 2G services on the Optus and Vodafone networks.

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Couple sitting on lounge using a phone and laptopMany vital services and equipment use telecommunications infrastructure to work, such as telephone and voice services, internet, disability equipment (tele-typewriters), fax machines, medical alarms, security alarms, EFTPOS machines and emergency elevator phones.

These services and equipment may be affected in the switch over to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

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The ACCAN Annual General Meeting was held in Sydney on Thursday, 15 September, 2016. At the meeting the following three candidates were elected to the Board:

  • Sarah Wilson
  • Dean Barton-Smith
  • Nadia Moffatt

Congratulations to returning director, Dean, and a warm welcome to Sarah and Nadia who are joining the ACCAN Board for the first time.

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Snail sliding across a computer keyboardIf your broadband speeds are consistently lower than those advertised by your internet service provider (ISP) or is unreliable at any time during the day, you should contact your provider and clearly state that you want to make a complaint.

Explain how your internet is slow or unreliable. Evidence, such as recorded speed tests (many IPSs offer this on their website, or you can try other online speed tests such as Ookla’s Speedtest) or examples of times when you are unable or have difficulty using the service.

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Laptop with download progress bar on screenSimilar to the ACCC’s consultation on broadband speed claims, regulators in other countries are trying to ensure that ISPs deliver on their broadband speed claims.

In the UK, the regulator is considering forcing broadband and mobile operators to pay automatic compensation to customers when services fail or when they are suffering slow speeds.

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With the Federal Election campaign now over, ACCAN congratulates Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield and Senator the Hon Fiona Nash who continue in their roles as Minister for Communications and Minister for Regional Communications respectively for the Turnbull Government. The Federal Member for Greenway, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP and the Federal Member for Throsby – Stephen Jones take up the roles of Shadow Minister for Communications and Shadow Minister for Regional Communications respectively.

We are pleased that during their campaigns both the Coalition and Labor made announcements of an additional $60 million in funding for a third round of the Mobile Black Spots Programme. This is vital as mobile coverage and competition in rural areas continues to be is a key issue for many consumers.

In the lead up to the election, ACCAN called for the parties to focus on five communications consumer priorities and we asked them a series of questions based on these priorities. We covered announcements from the Coalition, Labor and the Australian Greens on NBN policy, digital literacy and accessibility. While we didn’t receive specific answers to our questions, some of these were answered by the announcements from the parties during the campaign.

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