Bush call on old phones
IT will be a case of going back to the telecommunications Stone Age if the Federal Government pulls the plug on the maintenance of fixed line phone services in the bush, says Mount Isa MP Robbie Katter.
Mr Katter warned yesterday that many areas of his electorate would be disadvantaged if the Government accepted a Productivity Commission recommendation to ditch the Universal Service Obligation by 2020.
The USO enshrines the principle that all Australians living outside mobile and NBN networks have access to a reliable fixed line phone service.
“Many areas of my electorate would be plunged back into the telecommunications Stone Age if the Turnbull Government accepts the Productivity Commission’s recent recommendation,” Mr Katter said.
He said abandoning the fixed line service would force people to use an inferior voice satellite service. This had serious implications for the 1000 students doing School of Distance Education.
“It would mean that people who rely on a fixed landline and live in a satellite footprint with no mobile phone coverage will be forced to accept a sub- standard, unreliable satellite voice service,” he said.
Coalition MP for Maranoa David Littleproud said the com- mission’s report was an opportunity to “reshape the USO to better service the bush”.
“What we as a government must appreciate is that although a review is needed, we can’t apply a cookie- cutter approach … It is imperative that access to fixed line services remains in areas without reliable mobile coverage,” he said.
Mr Littleproud said USO funding could be spent on new mobile phone towers.
He said he would like to see to see telcos pay to access infrastructure that would provide “seamless mobile phone coverage across Australia”.
In a joint statement in midJune, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash said the Productivity Commission had found the USO to be “anachronistic and costly”. They said the USO was a longstanding consumer safeguard put in place in an era before “the widespread availability of mobile and broadband services”.
Greg Rayner from the Communication Workers Union said cutting telecommunications support would spell disaster for remote areas.
“We will fight to protect the services to regional and remote communities as we pressure the Government to stay true to the 20- year contract and uphold the USO agreement until well beyond 2020,” Mr Rayner said.