The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) recently held its Meet the People Forum at Parliament House in Canberra to highlight important telecommunications consumer priorities for 2016 to Federal Parliamentarians.
The forum aims to bring the voice of consumers to Canberra, to talk about their experiences with fixed line connection, fault repair and reliability; expectations of broadband performance that are mismatched with actual experience; and the challenge of affordability as a barrier to getting and staying connected.
ACCAN has proposed three key policy initiatives to help address these consumer priorities: a reformed Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) and service reliability benchmarks; independent broadband performance monitoring to inform the market and guide consumer choice; and a review of the current Centrelink Telephone Allowance to match the needs of low income consumers today.
ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said access to reliable communication services is vital for Australian consumers and is essential for social and economic participation.
“But the current CSG only protects the Standard Telephone Service (STS). This is out of step with changes in consumer usage patterns, which are now overwhelmingly moving towards mobile and broadband communications,” she added.
Corbin also highlighted a recent ACCAN survey that found that consumers were disappointed with their broadband services.
“We hear many consumers are struggling with broadband services that offer poor performance. In our survey, consumers said price, monthly data allowance and performance are their top three important factors for broadband.
“The missing piece is information on performance. ACCAN is calling on the Federal Government to support an independent broadband monitoring program to fill the gap in consumer information,” she mentioned.
She also addressed the affordability of telecommunications services, as she claimed it is becoming more important as government and other essential services move online, leaving consumers on lower incomes struggling to pay for upfront connection and ongoing costs.
To address these issues ACCAN is proposing that the Centrelink Telephone Allowance be reviewed, as it is no longer fit for purpose.
“Voice and data services are essential to the social, economic, and community participation of low-income Australians.
“It makes economic sense to support public investment in the nbn, and the digital transformation of government services by making sure that as many consumers as possible can stay connected,” she added.