Australia’s Productivity Commission has recommended what it has termed ‘a modernised and forward-looking approach to the subsidy and support arrangements that form universal telecommunications services in Australia’. The Commission argued that the country’s existing Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (TUSO) is ‘currently outdated and should be replaced by a more targeted approach that recognises the substantial public investment in the National Broadband Network (NBN), expected to be fully rolled out by 2020’.
To that end, the Commission has proposed that the TUSO be replaced with a universal service policy objective to provide a baseline or minimum broadband (including voice) service to all premises in Australia, once the NBN rollout is complete. ‘In a digital age, the current obligation – requiring Telstra to provide all Australians with access to basic fixed line telephones and payphones – is anachronistic and needs to change,’ Commissioner Paul Lindwall said, adding: ‘Once rolled out to all Australians, the NBN will be the foundation on which a future broadband based telecommunications universal service policy should be built. A completed NBN, which provides broadband and voice services to all Australians, will make the current TUSO obsolete.’ The Productivity Commission is expected to submit its final report on the matter to government in April 2017.