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Telstra preference for net customers disadvantages regional Australia.

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Telstra Preference For Net Customers Disadvantages Regional Australia Sue Mackay - Shadow Minister for Regional Services

Media Statement - 19 January 2001

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"Telstra's new pricing structure, which favours customer with internet access, will discriminate against regional Australians who often pay more to use the web," says Senator Sue Mackay, Shadow Minister for Regional Services.

She was joining the widespread criticism of new charging plans announced by Telstra this week, which give people who deal with the company electronically discounts on line rental and local calls.

"Telstra's new pricing plans, as well as being extremely cumbersome and complicated, increase the urban-regional 'digital divide' by giving preferential treatment to those who can afford access to the internet.

"This hurts regional Australians who, although on lower average incomes, often have to pay for internet access at timed STD rates rather than paying for only one untimed local call for each session on the net. Another factor limiting access is the often-slower speed of connection to the internet in rural areas, and that determines the time it takes to download information from the internet - all while the 'meter' ticks over at STD rates.

"This is in addition to the considerable expense of buying a home computer and paying for repairs and necessary upgrades.

"These problems are borne out by Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, reported in December, which showed that regional and remote areas still lag behind the cities. They showed that just 26 per cent of regional and rural households had internet access at home, compared with 38 per cent of city households.

"The Howard Government's neglect of regional infrastructure has exacerbated these problems. The Coalition's belated attention to the regions in the run-up to the election is too little, too late."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.