Internet Australia (IA), an industry body representing internet users, has said that under proposed changes to the Universal Service Obligation (USO), nbn should have the responsibility of ensuring broadband data services are effectively delivered to everyone in Australia.
The comments were made by IA CEO, Laurie Patton at a public hearing held by the Productivity Commission in Sydney. Mr Patton said there needed to be a single entity charged with ensuring that an expanded USO was properly implemented.
“Subject to further consideration, we believe that nbn should have a basic and overriding responsibility to ensure everyone has broadband access, and this applies to the provision of access under the USO,” Mr Patton said.
“That was the basic premise when the organisation was created. While nbn is a wholesale-only provider it was always envisaged that it would provide the mechanism for ensuring everyone who needs it has broadband access.”
Mr Patton said that unlike the existing telco-focussed USO, where there are only a handful of providers, the retail service provider market is so large that any USO broadband data model is bound to be very complicated.
While IA is yet to determine a position on exactly how it should be structured, Mr Patton said, “I believe somebody has to take ultimate responsibility for making sure that an expanded USP works. In the telco case it is Telstra. In the broadband case in my view it should be nbn.”
IA joined with other organisations at the hearings who maintain that the USO should be funded by government not via a levy of service providers.
“We only have a universal POTS (plain old telephone service) because it was funded and built by the government,” Mr Patton said.
IA told the Commission it sees three groups and individuals needing support under any USO. These are those who are financially constrained, people in remote areas and people with disabilities.
IA maintains that for many of those requiring assistance under the USO access to the Internet is often more important than access to a standard telephone.
“There are new applications coming on to the market that make using a broadband service more helpful, especially for people with disabilities,” Mr Patton said.