Time to review USO: MP
Littleproud fights for better phone access
MARANOA MP David Littleproud sees an opportunity to reshape the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to better service the bush and achieve the right technology mix to guarantee better mobile and phone services across his rural and remote electorate, as well as providing a long-awaited kick-start to domestic mobile roaming opportunities.
Mr Littleproud said the USO was a 20-year, $3 billion agreement between the Federal Government and Telstra that requires every Australian to have access to telephone services, both fixed and payphone.
“I think it’s commonly accepted that while the local payphone box is a sight we all recognise, as a result of the increasing use of mobile phones, it makes sense that as a government we should be looking towards a pragmatic and sensible review of USO funding,” he said.
“What we as a government must appreciate is that although a review is needed, we can’t apply a cookie cutter approach in the country, as it’s absolutely necessary and imperative that access to fixed line services remains in areas without reliable mobile coverage.
“I believe the USO funding could be spent to fund new mobile phone towers but, as this is taxpayer money in part, it should be mandated that all telcos pay to access this infrastructure to provide seamless mobile phone coverage across Australia.
“The Productivity Commission has already said, in its draft report, there’s a strong case to review the USO obligations, which includes the lack of transparency or accountability from Telstra in the way it’s using that money, and at the same time I see this as an opportunity to open up the market place for consumers, particularly regional, rural and remote customers.
“Make no mistake, this government is prioritising communications in the bush and I know that in terms of the internet the introduction of legislation last week to ensure minimum broadband standards is an important piece of the puzzle.
“Couple this with today’s announcement that Sky Muster users will soon see the benefit of a 50 per cent increase to their peak data and twice as much data during off peak times.
“In my mind, it’s the right time to advocate for better communications for people in the country.
“We must have ongoing access to fixed line services, as well as better and more competitive mobile phone coverage in the bush.”