NBN to subsidise medical alarm upgrades

NBN will provide up to AU$300 towards upgraded unmonitored medical alarms to help ensure they do not stop working during the migration from legacy services.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) has announced that it will be meet 80 percent of the cost for upgrading unmonitored medical alarms, saying it will improve customer experience during the migration from legacy broadband services.

Unmonitored medical alarms, which alert a chosen contact or emergency services when triggered, may need upgrading so they can dial out during power outages -- and when broadband connections are switched off during an NBN migration.

NBN is providing up to AU$300 off the cost of a replacement when a user is registered with NBN's Medical Alarm Register, which currently has more than 260,000 members.

"NBN Co will contact registered medical alarm users when their home is ready to be connected to the network. They will get advice about potential compatibility issues with their unmonitored medical alarm and their options to upgrade, or speak to their existing alarm supplier about continuing to use their existing alarm, before their current phone service is switched off," NBN said.

Chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said NBN will be kicking off an awareness campaign for unmonitored medical alarm users across the nation, including mailing out information and contacting GPs and aged-care groups.

Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Health and Medicare Minister Catherine King welcomed the announcement, pointing out that the Labor opposition has called on NBN since 2016 to "reconsider a decision it made in 2015 to exclude unmonitored alarms from the medical alarm subsidy scheme".

"Medical alarms are crucial for supporting the safety and independence of older Australians living at home," Rowland and King said in a joint statement.

The announcement follows the new NBN migration rules from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which specify that retail service providers must provide information on medical alarm services, along with data speeds, online usage, technical limitations, and security alarm services.

As of last month, the ACMA is now able to directly enforce its new NBN migration rules, with the federal government agency's powers backed up by the ability to commence court proceedings to seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

The ACMA said the new regulations will ensure consumers have better access to information on NBN services, are given backup options if services are not working, and have complaints addressed faster and more effectively.

The ACMA had in June unveiled its Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard, which will both commence on September 21. The former requires retailers to provide a key facts sheet to all NBN customers, while the latter ensures consumers have access to a broadband service at all times.

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