Conroy reveals USO directions

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has released a draft Ministerial Determination for outlining circumstances in which a consumer can request access to a standard telephone service.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has released a draft Ministerial Determination for outlining circumstances in which a consumer can request access to a standard telephone service.

Currently, Telstra is obligated under universal service obligations (USO) to ensure the delivery of standard telephone services, payphones and emergency call handling. Under the agreement it is intended that Telstra would be relinquished from USO to a newly created government-owned entity (currently known as USO Co) in July 2012 as part of the Federal Government's deal with Telstra and the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The government has called for public consultation on the draft Ministerial Determination document released late Friday. The document states that houses, apartments, farms, retirement villages, permanent caravans and permanently moored vessels will be covered by USO, unless these premises fail to meet certain requirements outlined in the legislation.

These exclusions include:

  • If the resident requests to keep their existing copper connection and refuse the fibre alternative. This means that should the Telstra deal be approved by shareholders, as the company decommissions its copper network, customers will have to move onto the NBN if they wish to have a fixed-line phone service.
  • The resident fails a credit check.
  • The resident is occupying the premise illegally or is under 18 years of age.

Conroy said in a statement that the draft determination provides consumers with certainty about how they will be able to access a telephone service.

"This important instrument represents the next step to ensuring that the consumer safeguards framework is robust, current service quality is maintained and consumer access to basic voice services is protected as the industry adjusts to the development of the National Broadband Network," he said.

The Federal Government recently sought to provide the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy with an additional $17.1 million in funding for the ongoing USO negotiations with Telstra.

Submissions are due for the consultation by 4 March 2011.

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