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Government delivers on 'interim telephone service' for remote customers.



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Media Release

The Hon Peter McGauran, MP

Acting Minister for Communications, Information Technology

and the Arts

Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation

 

6 July 1999

93/99

 

Government delivers on 'Interim Telephone Service' for remote cus tomers

 

The Government has negotiated with Telstra the delivery of an 'interim service' to remote customers who have been waiting six months or more for provision of a first standard telephone service (STS), the Acting Minister for Communications, Informat ion Technology and the Arts, Peter McGauran, announced today.

 

The initiative applies to customers living in areas of fewer than 200 people, where there is no infrastructure.

'This meets the commitment made by the Coalition during last year's Federal Ele ction. The new six month timeframe for an interim service represents a further improvement on the existing 12 month maximum time for connection in Telstra's current Universal Service Plan (the Plan). This is an important breakthrough for Australians living in remote areas,' Mr McGauran said.

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) was asked to examine the best way to implement this commitment as part of its general review of Telstra's Plan.

Following the ACA's recommendations, and consultation with industry, the Government has decided to go beyond its original commitment - ensuring that irrespective of the technology used to provide this service, customers will only be charged at the relevant public switched telephone service (PSTS) rates when making use of the interim service.

'Delivering this commitment demonstrates that the Government is focused on improving connection times for Australians living in very remote areas. Over the last 18 months, maximum connection timeframes for new services in remote areas have been reduced from 27 to 12 months and now to six months for an interim service,' Mr McGauran said.

Telstra will be required to deliver this interim service via satellite, or other available technologies, at relevant PSTS rates. These new arrangements will be put in place as soon as possible, but no later than 1 August 1999.

'The Government recognises that this may be a new cost to Telstra, above and beyond the cost of the services included at the time the legislated cap on the USO cost for 1999/2000 was imposed. This will be taken into consideration as the Government works towards determining the form of the USO regime in the long term,' Mr McGauran said.

The Government is giving detailed consideration to the remaining recommendations of the ACA's review of Telstra's Plan and will announce its response in the near future.

Media contact:  

Terry O'Connor, Senator Alston's Office (02) 6277 7480 

Website: http://www.richardalson.dcita.gov.au

Background information  

The requirement that Telstra pre pare a Universal Service Plan was one of the most important reforms introduced by the Telecommunications Act 1997 . Senator Alston approved the current Plan on 18 May 1998 after extensive consultations and after receiving recommendations from the ACA.

The Plan sets out in detail how Telstra will meet its Universal Service Obligation to ensure that all Australians, wherever they reside or work, will have access to a standard telephone service (STS) and to payphones. The Plan also imposes connection and repair timeframes which vary according to a customer's location and the availability of infrastructure.

The existing Plan reduced maximum timeframe for connection to the STS in remote areas from 27 months to 12 months. The Coalition has now made the delivery of an 'interim solution' within a 6-month timeframe a legal requirement, thus imposing a specific obligation on Telstra to deliver what is currently an optional service under the Plan.

Senator Alston recently requested the ACA to undertake a general review of Telstra's Universal Service Plan, focusing in particular upon the delivery of an 'interim service'; arrangements for people with disabilities; payphone services; and connection and fault repair times. Senator Alston is currently considering the remainder of the ACA's proposed changes to the Plan.

The ACA's review of Telstra's Universal Service Plan has been released publicly and is available on the ACA's website at www.aca.gov.au

6 July 1999

 

 

md 1999-07-09  13:43