By ERWIN CHLANDA
Information is seeping out on how Telstra can deliver to customers a fraction of what they are paying for, and get away with it.
In our most recent report on that saga we said: “It appears Telstra is violating its Universal Service Obligation [USO] under the Australian Communications Authority which requires it ‘to ensure that general digital data services or special digital data services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, no matter where they live or conduct business’.”
That document is still on the net and it perfectly fits the ongoing situation in Alice Springs: users of mobile phones and – in particular – dongle or hotspot services sold by Telstra suffer frequent drop-outs, slow connections to the net and prolonged complete break-downs of the service, whilst paying full price for it.
All this happens without any warning at the time of purchase from Telstra which – as we reported – is adopting a take it or leave it attitude.
We’re now informed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), that the Digital Data Service Obligation (DDSO) “was revoked in 2008 with the following explanation in the explanatory statement.
“The DDSO was established on 14 October 1999 at a time when consumers, particularly in regional Australia, had limited access to digital data services.
“Since commencement of the DDSO, demand for digital data services has increased rapidly with consumers requiring increasing amounts of bandwidth and greater upload and download speeds.
“The commercial supply and range of technologies to provide these services has also grown commensurately.”
The Government considers that the market is now able to provide the majority of consumers with a choice of provider, a choice of technology and minimum digital data speeds greatly in excess of the legislated 64 kilobits per second provided for under the DDSO.”
That is not the case in Alice Springs’ southern half where Optus is as poor as Telstra, according to users who have spoken to the Alice Springs News Online.
“So, in short,” says ACMA, “[the DDSO] doesn’t exist anymore.”
The cancellation of the DDSO occurred when Kevin Rudd headed up a Labor Government in Canberra, and the third and final tranche of Telstra shares (Telstra 3) was for sale. The obvious question is, did Mr Rudd remove the DDSO to sweeten the deal for buyers, from the government, of the shares?
Clearly the principle that, within reason, all Australian should have equal access to telecommunications is sound. Why should that cease to be valid because of the inevitable and predictable change of technology?
People in droves are now abandoning landlines in favour of mobiles and hotspot based access to the web, avoiding paying for two services when only one is needed.
When the government owned Telstra it had the Universal Service Obligation. Now no-one has.
PHOTO: At the show, the Finke and other events, and for residents generally, mobile and internet services south of the range are grossly inferior because transmitters on the towers (yellow circle) are mostly pointing the other way.
By ERWIN CHLANDA