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Wednesday, 01 February 2017 16:36

Hold the line

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition says reliable home phone services in the bush may be soon at risk under proposed changes to the Universal Service Obligation.

Members of the comms coalition appeared on Wednesday at the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the USO in Sydney.
As part of the inquiry, the Productivity Commission is examining the possibility of transitioning voice services, currently delivered by the existing copper network, to National Broadband Network infrastructure.
Effectively this would mean voice services would be delivered via satellite for users in rural and remote Australia.
“While we acknowledge the logic in transitioning to more modern infrastructure, this does not escape the fact that geographically a majority of users would be serviced via satellite – including areas that are currently serviced by the existing copper network,” said Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO, Teresa Corbin.
“As a coalition we are adamant that a reformed USO must not result in a degradation of existing services.”
National Farmers Federation (NFF) President, Fiona Simson, is also concerned about the development.
“A transition to voice-over-nbn infrastructure could mean many users currently receiving a voice service over copper line would have their service replaced by an inferior, unreliable satellite service,” she said.
“The Sky Muster satellite wasn’t designed to deliver universal voice services. A more acceptable long term solution needs to be found before any transition occurs.
The most significant concern for the Coalition is safety during such a transition.                             
"In emergencies a reliable voice connection can be the difference between life and death,” Fiona Simson said.
“There are also issues around how remote businesses are expected to operate in a 21st century economy and meet their workplace health and safety obligations.
“This issue is of significant concern for the coalition and for this reason coalition members will be appearing at as many hearings as possible over the coming weeks.”

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