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Telstra commitment on regional service boost a welcome step.



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Telstra commitment on regional service boost a welcome step

The publication of Telstra's Final Response to the Regional Telecommunications (Estens) Inquiry (RTI) is a significant further step in improving telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, said today.

The response provides an overview of how Telstra intends to address the 19 recommendations of the Inquiry which are relevant to its obligations and responsibilities, showing Telstra's commitment to achieving adequate and sustainable services in regional Australia.

Telstra's response finalises the implementation of two of the Inquiry's recommendations on reducing phone connection times and improving the coordination of new phone connections.

Recommendation 2.4 required Telstra to report on the outcome of its trial to reduce fixed phone connection times in minor rural and remote areas where infrastructure is not readily available. Telstra's response includes a commitment to formally lock in these new timeframes.

The response will also implement recommendation 2.5, which required Telstra to report on the outcome of its project to improve the coordination of new fixed phone connections. The response highlights a number of changes implemented by Telstra to streamline the provision of new services and to provide ongoing monitoring of its process changes.

The response refers to the legally enforceable undertaking entered into by Telstra with the Government in response to recommendation 2.8. This commits Telstra to replace the remaining older radio concentrator systems across its network with more advanced technologies.

The key features of Telstra's response include:

● Continue working with representatives of the disabled community to resolve

service concerns, and to consider their practical suggestions for service improvements;

● Improve overall congestion levels on smaller pair gain systems and reduce

congestion levels across the pair gains network so these services are comparable to the rest of Telstra's network;

● Fix the 54 worst-performing exchange service areas as identified by the

Australian Communications Authority;

● Undertake a range of activities to improve services for remote Indigenous

communities;

● Better align ISDN timeframes with those for fixed phone services, and

● Maintain an ongoing local presence in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Government is working with Telstra to lock in a number of these commitments in the future.

The Government's response to the RTI recommendations is being implemented as a matter of priority and includes allocating more than $180 million to the improvement of existing telecommunications services and locking in service improvements.

The Government is also moving to future-proof telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia through a $142.8 million program of targeted broadband spending. These initiatives will ensure that improvements to services achieved in recent years are maintained into the future and that regional users share equitably in the benefits of future advances in technology.

The RTI response will be delivered in full regardless of any change in the future ownership of Telstra.

Telstra's Final Response to the RTI is available from Telstra's website at www.telstra.com.au.

Media contact: Simon Troeth 02 6277 7480 or 0439 425 373 Website: www.richardalston.dcita.gov.au

167/03 8 September 2003