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Productivity Commission Calls For Contributions To USO Inquiry

The Productivity Commission has today called for contributions to its public inquiry into the telecommunications universal service obligation (USO).

An issues paper, outlining a range of issues about which the commission is seeking information, is available via its website.

“Currently we have in place a universal service obligation that means the government guarantees a minimum level of fixed line voice telephone services and payphones across Australia,” commissioner Paul Lindwall commented.

“Our inquiry is looking at whether government intervention is still needed to support universal access to a minimum level of telecommunications services, given market, technological and policy developments over the past decade, not least of which is the widespread use of mobile phones and the rollout of the NBN.”

The deadline for submissions is July 21, while opportunity for further comment will be sought upon release of the draft report in December this year.

“We expect we will hear from our major telecommunications providers on this issue, but we are also interested in hearing from individuals, local government and anyone who has a view on the current universal service obligation and future directions for change,” Lindwall stated.

Vodafone chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd last month stated it is “crucial that whichever party wins the election” ensures the inquiry “leads to meaningful change which benefits customers”.

“We think the $300 million in funding provided to Telstra every year to maintain an outdated copper network and payphones in regional areas could be much better spent,” Lloyd commented.

“If a permanent Mobile Black Spot Programme was established, potentially using a portion of those USO funds, the number of regional areas to benefit from increased coverage and choice would increase substantially.”

The final report to government is due in April next year.

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