NBN delays universal service review

Federal Communications Minister Conroy has named the government's AU$4.7 billion national broadband network as the reason for an apparent lack of action on the universal service obligation (USO) review.

Federal Communications Minister Conroy has named the government's AU$4.7 billion national broadband network as the reason for the apparent lack of action on the universal service obligation (USO) review.

Last year, then-Communications Minister Coonan launched a review of the service obligation, which ensures that telcos chip in to ensure that Australia has reasonable access to a telephone line, with some parties believing the service needed an overhaul to include broadband and mobile.

Funding issues were also raised, with the government funding the USO to the tune of AU$158 million, while Telstra, which provides the rural services, has claimed the real costs run to AU$1.7 billion.

Almost 50 submissions to the review were received by November last year, but there has been little announced since.

Shadow Minister Bruce Billson yesterday called to attention the lack of progress, saying the silence on the issue meant that Conroy has put it "in his too hard basket".

A spokesperson for Conroy said in response that the government expected to make decisions about the USO when the national broadband network decisions had been made.

"The National Broadband Network process, which is now 'live', will inevitably have implications for the USO regime," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also pointed out that many of the national broadband network regulatory submissions submitted in June also touched on the USO.

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