Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 7 March 2005
Page: 163


Senator Brown asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 18 November 2004:

With reference to a letter written by the Minister’s Senior Policy Adviser, David Kelly, to Ms Margaret Hale of Bateau Bay, New South Wales, regarding the slow Internet speeds of 12 kbps experienced by Ms Hale because of obsolete telecommunication connections:

(1)   Did Mr Kelly indicate that 19.2 kbps is the ‘absolute minimum’ standard.

(2)   Did Mr Kelly indicate that a 64 kbps service is part of the universal service obligations that Telstra must meet.

(3)   Did Mr Kelly refer the matter to Telstra.

(4)   What percentage of customers must still rely upon the technology that Mr Kelly indicated was unsatisfactory.

(5)   For what percentage of customers is Telstra still unable to meet its universal service obligations.

(6)   What steps is Telstra taking to meet its obligations to all customers.

(7)   Can the Government be satisfied that Telstra services to rural areas meet the minimum requirements for the full sale of the Government share of the organisation if the universal service obligations are not being fully met.


Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

Mr David Kelly is the Senior Policy Adviser in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and was when he wrote to Ms Hale. He was not an adviser to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Mr Kelly has indicated that he is unable to locate a copy of his letter to Ms Hale of 12 June 2002.

The then Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon Richard Alston, wrote to Mr Ken Ticehurst MP, Member for Dobell (Ms Hale’s local Member) in May 2002, concerning the speed of Ms Hale’s dial-up internet service. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts responded to a further letter by Ms Hale in August 2003 that addressed the same issue.

(1)   As noted above, Mr Kelly has indicated that he has been unable to locate a copy of his letter to Ms Hale. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in its letter of August 2003 advised Ms Hale that, “The IAP is aimed at ensuring Internet users can achieve a minimum Internet throughput over Telstra’s fixed line network, equivalent to 19.2kbps, no matter where they live or conduct business. This is irrespective of Telstra’s use of pair gain systems”.

(2)   As noted above, Mr Kelly has indicated that he has been unable to locate a copy of his letter to Ms Hale. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in its letter of August 2003 advised Ms Hale that, “As a safeguard for Australians seeking access to faster services, particularly to access the Internet, the Government introduced the DDSO in 1999. It ensures a 64kbps ISDN or comparable one-way satellite service is available upon request and payment of applicable charges”.

(3)   It does not appear that Mr Kelly referred the matter to Telstra.

(4)   As noted above, Mr Kelly has indicated that he has been unable to locate a copy of his letter to Ms Hale. Telstra has advised the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts that, at the time of her correspondence to the Deputy Prime Minister in 2002, Ms Hale was serviced by a 4 digital pair gain system (4DPGS). Ms Hale’s service was transposed from this system onto a direct copper line after she contacted the IAP in July 2003, providing her with a data speed of 44 kbps.

As at 1 November 2004, there were 22,904 customer telephone services connected to 4DPGS equipment. This represents approximately 0.2 percent of Telstra fixed-line telephone customers, all of whom are eligible to request the minimum equivalent data throughput of 19.2 kbps through the Internet Assistance Program.

(5)   The USO relates to the standard telephony service. The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has advised that in response to its annual request for data, Telstra confirmed that it did not refuse to connect any Standard Telephone Service in the 2003-04 financial year.

(6)   Telstra advises that it maintains extensive systems to ensure it complies with its obligations to all customers. Compliance reporting and monitoring is also undertaken by the ACA. Consumers who believe that Telstra is not meeting its regulatory obligations should contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or the ACA.

(7)   It is the Government’s long standing policy to fully privatise Telstra. The Government has consistently stated that any further sale of the remaining share holding is conditional on satisfactory arrangements being in place to provide for the delivery of adequate services to all Australians. The RTI was established to report on whether telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia are adequate and the arrangements that should be put in place to ensure that all Australians continue to share in the benefits of further service improvements and developments in technology.