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NFF welcomes government commitment to rural telecommunications.



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News Release

 

National Farmers’ Federation

 

22 July 1998

NR 84/98

 

NFF WELCOMES GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT TO RURAL

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

 

The National Farmers' Federation has welcomed today's commitment to guarantee telecommunications services in rural, remote and regional Australia.

 

NFF's Executive Director, Dr Wendy Craik, said the commitment to enshrine customer service safeguards in legislation, irrespective of any further changes in the ownership of Telstra, was welcomed.

 

"NFF does not have a policy on the sale of Telstra", Dr Craik said.

 

"However, we regard the provision of affordable equitable telecommunications for all Australians, no matter where they live. as a matter of great urgency", she said.

 

"Any legislative guarantees should include a provision for upgrading telecommunications service guarantees as technology changes, and the provision for interim equipment to be made available for customers when the guaranteed time frames are not met".

 

“Nationally uniform customer service guarantees, based on distance from available telecommunication, infrastructure, are essential for comparable quality services".

 

“We welcome the Government's decision to establish an independent inquiry to assess levels of service to customers in all areas, and its commitment to consult with local communities about what they need", Dr Craik said.

 

“NFF notes that the Minister for Telecommunications will be given the power to give Telstra directions regarding compliance with service standards as an acknowledgement of community concerns", she said.

 

“We also welcome the reiteration of the decision to spend $150 million of the proceeds of the Telstra sale to abolish the pastoral call rate and provide untimed local calls in extended zones in remote Australia, an extra $60 million for Networking the Nation and Telstra Board Directors who understand rural telecommunications".

 

“NFF will continue to seek the provision for rural and regional subscribers of digital data capability (not necessarily and exclusively by ISDN), so that they can send faxes, receive data and access the Internet at speeds available to those in the cities". Dr Craik said.

 

"The social bonus funds must be used to help rural and regional Australia fully engage in electronic commerce, otherwise country people are simply left 'on hold"', she said.

 

"They should also be used to deliver a genuine 'social bonus' to rural and regional Australia - by helping to compensate for the reduction in other services, such as finance, health and education".

 

For further information

 

Dr Wendy Craik, Executive Director, NFF 0419257469

 

 

 

LK