Increasing transparency in the delivery of the Universal Service Obligation

The Liberal and Nationals Government is proposing more rigorous reporting rules on Telstra to improve transparency in the delivery of voice services in regional and remote areas.

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a long-standing consumer protection whereby Telstra must provide a fixed standard telephone service on reasonable request to premises anywhere in Australia. This is both a legislative and contractual obligation. Telstra is obligated to provide a reliable telephone service and provide connections and repair faults within a reasonable time.  

Under the proposed new reporting rules Telstra would need to publicly report on its performance at the local exchange level against key indicators, including service availability, connection timeframes, faults and outages, repair timeframes, appointment timeframes, complaints, and customer contact handling.

Minister for Regional Communications, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said she was concerned about community perceptions that services in regional and remote Australia were not being maintained.

“Regional and remote consumers place a high priority on access to reliable voice services, and the Government is now proposing changes so that more detailed and up to date information will be available to the community. Members of the community who have concerns about their service can check performance in their local area online. This is about giving regional Australians certainty and reliability in times of need. Sometimes, a fixed line voice service is the only form of communication available to regional Australians,” Minister McKenzie said.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said “These carrier licence conditions will put in place public reporting requirements that will give a level of regularity, granularity and transparency about Telstra’s performance that has not previously been available. This will provide an evidence base of Telstra’s performance in delivering the universal service obligation.”

Those interested can provide their view on the proposed conditions by the closing date of 8 November 2021 via https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/have-your-say/better-reporting-telstra-delivery-voice-services