Telstra wants transparency reports to be mandatory for telcos in regional Australia

All of Australia's major telcos have called for USO reforms to be made as part of submissions made to the federal government's review into regional connectivity issues.

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The Australian government is currently in the midst of reviewing telecommunications issues experienced by people based in regional, rural, and remote areas across the country. The review, which occurs every three years, has received submissions from Australia's major telcos about the issues it should look into.

Of particular note is Telstra's submission, which has asked for government to consider making it mandatory for fixed network operators in regional Australia to provide transparent reporting on fault identification and rectification.

"Greater transparency of the capabilities and performance of fixed network services would benefit customers as they make choices about the best mix of services and service providers to suit their needs," Telstra wrote in its submission [PDF].

It also recommended that funds be directly allocated to local governments to assist in raising understanding of connectivity solutions and technologies that are most appropriate, while asking for the federal government to consider a scenario where passive infrastructure sharing between telcos become a thing despite opposing mandated roaming.

Another recommendation made by Australia's incumbent telco was for reforms to be made to the country's universal service obligation (USO). The USO is a consumer protection aimed at ensuring everyone has access to landline telephones and payphones. Telstra is currently the only provider of USO.

It said the focus behind the USO should be on the outcomes delivered to customers rather than the technology used to deliver those outcomes.

"The USO could be reformed to ensure that the entity responsible for the USO be required to provide at least the same level of coverage, resilience and quality using technology that best delivers and enhances these outcomes over time," Telstra said.

Like Telstra, Optus [PDF] and TPG Telecom [PDF] have also asked for government to consider reforms regarding the USO in their respective submissions.

"The universal service arrangements are a mess of outdated, poorly managed, and costly arrangements that do not meet value for money principles and do not ensure delivery of the services needed in regional areas," Optus wrote in its submission.

Optus said that current USO rules have caused it to pay AU$1.2 billion to Telstra since 1992, with the Singapore-owned telco saying that money could have been used to expand its own coverage in regional areas instead.

TPG Telecom, meanwhile, has called for the USO to be replaced altogether.

The remaining recommendations from all three major telco companies were for there to be better coordination between government and industry, as well as calls for more work on regional connectivity and education programs. 

The committee tasked with conducting the review will deliver its findings to the federal government before the end of the year.  

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