[LINK] BIRRR MEDIA RELEASE: February 8, 2017

David Boxall linkdb at boxall.name
Thu Feb 9 15:12:40 AEDT 2017

People should not have to go to such lengths, just to be treated equitably.

> Rural communications advocacy group, Better Internet for Rural, 
> Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) has addressed two major 
> telecommunications reviews this week, as it presented submissions to 
> the Productivity Commission on the Telecommunications USO (‘VoIP 
> versus landlines’), and Department of Communications and the Arts for 
> the Telecommunications Reform Package.
> Nine volunteers from four states spent weeks compiling over 120 pages 
> of responses, evidence and case studies to the two telecommunications 
> submissions.
> BIRRR spokesperson Kristy Sparrow commended her team on a huge effort, 
> as they fight both to save existing tools and to secure decent rural, 
> regional and remote telecommunication services into the future.
> “The key question behind everything we have compiled are these: Are we 
> reducing the digital and communications divide or widening it? And are 
> we effectively using legislation and funding to do this?”
> BIRRR today presented a stern response to the Telecommunications 
> Universal Service Obligation (USO) Productivity Commission Draft 
> Report, pinpointing several serious concerns about the detail in the 
> commission’s proposals.
> While agreeing that a USO was vital to ensuring equitable access to 
> reasonable telecommunications across Australia, BIRRR has joined calls 
> for the PC to drop its recommendation to do away with fixed landline 
> services.
> The commission’s draft reports suggested alternative is a mobile phone 
> service, instead of a landline telephone - a situation identified as 
> ‘potentially disastrous’ by many across Australia’s rural and regional 
> communities.
> “Many who do have reliable mobile coverage just don’t understand that 
> so many Australians cannot,” Kristy pointed out.
> “To suggest that nbn satellite might be the alternative phone service 
> (via VoIP) is ludicrous. A Sky Muster VoIP service is poor quality, 
> complex and has no consumer service level agreement. Sky Muster 
> reliability levels have been unsatisfactory leaving end users with 
> long outages.
> The group is also recommending that nbn NOT become the USO 
> infrastructure provider for voice.
> ‘These technologies were not designed for voice, nbn has not 
> previously been directed by the Government to provide voices services, 
> and as such their technology rollout has focused only on broadband.
> “BIRRR members have expressed grave concern about the need for 
> existing landlines to be maintained until superior technology comes 
> along, we challenge the Government to actually read some of the 
> experiences suffered by people in the group,” Kristy said.
> “We urge the Commission NOT to recommend removing proven communication 
> systems. The essential role played by landlines is far too vital to be 
> cut to simply fit budget requirements. The consequences of removing 
> generally- reliable landlines and forcing an already shaky service to 
> take over that role would be immense and immeasurable.
> “RRR Australia could never recover from the direct and flow on effects 
> of such a move which would economically destroy bush businesses and 
> potentially endanger lives.”
> Another key point BIRRR made to the commission today is that the USO 
> MUST be extended to include broadband technology, on which so much 
> communication, education and business now depends.
> Kristy spoke to BIRRR’s submission (via phone hookup) at the Melbourne 
> public hearing this morning, and provided examples of the 200 
> troubleshooting cases that they deal with each week.
> Customer service (or lack thereof) provided by nbn and rural, regional 
> and remote broadband providers was also in the group’s firing line.
> “The very reason for the existence of the BIRRR group is the 
> reluctance of nbn and telecommunications providers to offer reliable 
> services, with efficient customer service and transparent information 
> to regional consumers.”
> With over 120,000 website hits, and hundreds of requests for help each 
> week, the group showcases the need for RRR consumers to be able to 
> access user-friendly telecommunications services that meet their 
> specific needs.
> Kristy said there is a sweeping assumption (by nbn and providers) that 
> all users have the technical expertise to know how to get and stay 
> connected for voice and broadband requirements.
> “Other essential service providers in RRR areas manage to do their own 
> troubleshooting of issues, they don’t rely on a volunteer group (like 
> BIRRR) to do it for them. The telecommunications industry should be 
> appalled for their apathetic attitude to regional consumers.”
> “The divide we are facing - a serious communications divide - is 
> ongoing and growing and has been created as a direct lack of support 
> offered to RRR Australians.”
> Kristy told the Productivity Commission that ‘every Australian, 
> irrespective of where they live or work, should be confident they can 
> access quality, reliable, accessible & affordable voice and broadband 
> services with customer support guarantees.’
> The BIRRR group also confirmed it could NOT give full support to a 
> Telecommunications Reform Package that does not establish safeguards 
> in relation to Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) performance, 
> calling on the Government to review nbn policy and direction.
> While BIRRR appreciates recent developments in telecommunications such 
> as further mobile blackspot funding and the launch of Sky Muster 
> Satellites, Kristy says “she is astounded that there is no uniform 
> scheme, safeguards or legislation proposed to deliver reliable and 
> equitable voice and broadband services for all Australians.”
> “On behalf of all Australians, I wish that the Government and 
> telecommunication industry would STOP focusing on speed, and start 
> delivering reliability, affordability, accessibility, quality of 
> service and customer service,” Kristy said.
> She called for real change lead by government, rather than endless 
> bureaucratic inaction.
> “There have been countless submissions, reviews, regulations and 
> studies, but very limited action and targeted funding. There has been 
> a focus on costs and broadband speeds but not on productivity, human 
> life and livelihoods.
> “RRR Australia contribute a large proportion of Australia’s GDP and 
> live across 80% of Australia's landmass. They do this in some of the 
> most hostile and hazardous locations, making their need for reliable 
> telecommunications paramount."
> BIRRR is urging the Government to acknowledge that now it is time to 
> be proactive and solve the telecommunications issues raised in these 
> reports, with a serious commitment to ensure that no Australian is 
> disadvantaged.
> “Frankly we should NOT have to constantly do battle to simply remain 
> connected.”
> The BIRRR Submissions are available on their website for public viewing.

David Boxall               |  Whatever we do or fail to do,
                            |  no matter why we do or fail to do it,
http://david.boxall.id.au  |  we remain responsible for the consequences
                            |  of our actions and our failures to act.

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