20 December 2017
The Turnbull Government today announced a program of work to implement a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG), which will ensure all Australians have access to voice and broadband services, regardless of where they live.
As part of the development of the new USG, the Government is committed to voice telephony services via the existing Universal Service Obligation (USO) contract with Telstra until this is replaced with a USG following the completion of the National Broadband Network rollout in 2020.
Before any changes are made, the USG will need to meet the following requirements:
a. broadband services are available to 100 per cent of Australian premises, on request, at the completion of the NBN rollout in 2020
b. voice services are available to 100 per cent of Australian premises on request
c. any proposed new service delivery arrangements are more cost effective than the existing USO contract (including any transitional costs)
d. a new consumer safeguards framework is in place following a review and associated public consultation process.
“The Government is taking a ‘belt and braces’ approach to protecting telecommunications accessibility for people in regional Australia,” said Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield. “The Government is putting new, stronger safeguards in place before making any changes to existing safeguards while the NBN is rolled out.”
The USG will be developed following the Productivity Commission inquiry into the USO, which found the existing contract to be “anachronistic and costly” and should be “replaced by a new framework to reflect changing policy, market and technological realities”.
The Government’s response to the PC report is available at: www.communications.gov.au/uso-government-response
The Government will develop options to implement a USG which ensures all Australian premises have access to retail voice and broadband services delivered on a commercial basis, underpinned by the Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) framework currently before Parliament. Where necessary, options will be developed for targeted Government measures, for example, to deliver alternative voice services to premises in the NBN satellite footprint which don’t have mobile coverage.
The Government has now commenced work on cost and delivery options to provide for a future Universal Service Guarantee, and will consider the future allocation of the $100 million in annual funding it currently pays into the existing USO contract as part of any change to existing USO arrangements.