Taskforce reviews telecommunications Universal Service Obligation

In December 2017, the Government announced that it would develop a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) for telecommunications to ensure all premises in Australia, regardless of their location, have access to both retail voice and broadband services. The announcement responded to a report by the Productivity Commission on the future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The new USG will be built around the National Broadband Network (NBN) and other commercial networks, supplemented by targeted measures where required.

The USO Taskforce in the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts is considering a number of key issues in developing the new USG, including:

  • alternative means of providing voice services to premises in NBN’s satellite footprint, recognising that NBN satellites are designed for broadband and not voice services
  • the potential impact on NBN costs and network design if premises currently serviced by Telstra under the USO migrate to NBN infrastructure
  • where and when it may be appropriate for Telstra to reduce the number of payphones provided under the USO.

Recognising the importance of reliable voice communications, particularly in rural and remote Australia, the Government has indicated the current USO arrangements will remain in place unless/until acceptable cost-effective alternatives are identified, proven and able to be implemented.

The taskforce welcomes the view of interested groups, including local government associations and councils, particularly those in regional, rural and remote areas (by 15 June 2018).

To assist stakeholders’ understanding of the issues, the taskforce has prepared a PowerPoint presentation for local government. The taskforce is available to meet with groups of councils and ROCs to discuss their views. 

To contact the taskforce please phone Georgianna Duggan on 02 6271 7041, or alternatively you can provide feedback to USO.taskforce@communications.gov.au. A number of key questions are set out on page 9 of the PowerPoint presentation.

The Department is looking at drawing together its advice on the USG for consideration by Government in the first quarter of the new financial year.

Further information on the USG process is available on the Department’s website.