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Time To Hang Up On The Phonebox? ‘Too Soon’, Says Consumer Group

Australia’s fading network of Telstra phone boxes – in recent times used to promote the telco’s “Telstra Air” online service – could be facing major changes following a report by the Productivity Commission, which found the network is “anachronistic and costly” and should be wound up by 2020.

But that plan is opposed by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, which says 2020 is far “too soon” to take such drastic action, which would deprive many Australians in remote and regional areas of their major means of communication.

Network CEO Teresa Corbin this week stressed that many Australians in remote and regional areas still use public telephones for their only reliable communication.

Meanwhile the payphone system is a shadow of its former self, with current box numbers put at around 24,000, down from almost 50,000 a decade ago.

The report found that the system set up in 2012 under a 20-year contract is costing almost $300 million a year. The Commonwealth contributes $100 million of this, while the remainder is funded through a levy on telecommunications operator. The final report suggests leveraging the NBN and existing mobile networks to provide basic broadband and voice services to all premises in Australia.

The Government says it is considering the report.

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