Issue No 26: 5 October 2021
Telecommunications Private Members Bill a Risk to Telecommunications Investment and Cost of Services
The Australian telecommunications industry is committed to service excellence and reliable connectivity for all Australian consumers and is delivering on that commitment in a challenging environment.
Complaints about telecommunications services to the industry ombudsman have fallen for the past three years running, to the lowest level in five years.1
Telcos have maintained high network and service standards against the backdrop of rising demand, natural disasters and the myriad challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – and with strong support from the Federal Government through its Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP) and the new Peri-Urban Mobile Program (PUMP) to improve mobile connectivity in bushfire priority areas.
Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), which represent the telco sector, said today that service providers recognise the frustrations that consumers can sometimes experience if they encounter a service issue.
The Private Members Bill exposure draft unveiled today by Julian Leeser, MP, is, nonetheless, an impractical ‘non-solution’, the Associations said.
The draft Bill includes measures that are impossible and/or infeasible to implement or would impose crippling costs on consumers and the industry. If brought into law, these proposals would act against consumers’ interests by discouraging industry investment.
The draft Bill also calls for some measures – such as a ‘league table’ comparing the customer service performance of individual telcos – that have already been proactively put in place by industry.2
The industry has maintained since early 2020 a set of COVID operating principles (agreed with Government) to provide assistance to customers during the pandemic. Industry is investing tens of billions of dollars to rapidly roll out world-leading 5G mobile services in Australia. Broadband access over the NBN is guaranteed for all Australians through the Universal Service Guarantee.
The industry stands ready to continue its active dialogue with parliamentarians and customers of all types, to address specific issues.
One of the ways in which government could help consumers is to support sensible reform and improvement of the powers and immunities provisions (under Section 3 of the Telecommunications Act, 1997) that help telcos to efficiently roll out new network infrastructure and services across Australia. The Commonwealth could also work with the States to encourage consistency in State and local planning laws across the country in a manner that recognises the importance of critical infrastructure.
All too often, telcos have planned and are ready to invest in vital infrastructure to further improve or expand services, only to find that their proposals are blocked by State or local governments, prompting misplaced criticism towards telcos from customers and other stakeholders.
Communications Alliance Submission to Regional Telecommunications Review
In its submission to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review (RTIRC), Communications Alliance has provided an update on the work done by the telecommunications industry in coordination with the energy industry and Government to improve network resilience following the 2019 bushfires and recommended government engage with industry to develop a clear definition of essential services to ensure that the connection, operation and restoration of essential services can be maintained – across and within State borders – to the largest extent possible during a crisis.
Below is a list of currently open telecommunications-related consultations being conducted by Government and other organisations that provide an opportunity for you to have your say.