Australia’s universal service reform legislation passed

22 Mar 2012

Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has announced the passing of the last major piece of legislation underpinning the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the recent structural reforms to the country’s telecommunications sector. With the universal service reform legislation package having finally been passed, Mr Conroy noted: ‘This legislation safeguards key telecommunications services for all Australians, particularly those in rural, regional and remote Australia, during and after the transition to the NBN.’ The relevant bills – the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011; the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011; and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011 – were introduced to parliament in November 2011.

One of the key aspects of the new legislation is the establishment of a new agency, the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA). As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, from 1 July 2012 the new body is to be tasked with ensuring that: all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the Universal Service Obligation [USO] for voice telephony services); payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians (the USO for payphones); the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra (calls to Triple Zero ‘000’ and ‘112’); the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service; that appropriate safety net arrangements are in place that will assist the migration of voice-only customers to an NBN fibre service as Telstra’s copper customer access network is decommissioned; and that technological solutions will be developed as necessary to support continuity of public interest services.