Passage of universal service reform legislation by the Parliament
On 21 March 2012, parliament passed universal service reform legislation, aimed at ensuring the ongoing delivery of key telecommunication consumer safeguards during and after the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). This legislation represents a significant move from a regulatory model for delivery of universal service, with obligations imposed directly on Telstra and other service providers, to a more accountable and flexible contractual model.
A key aspect of the package of legislation was the establishment of the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA). TUSMA is responsible for entering into, and managing contracts or grants, to ensure:
- all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the USO for voice telephony services)
- payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians (the USO for payphones)
- the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra (calls to Triple Zero '000' and '112')
- the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service
- continued availability of untimed local calls for customers outside standard zones, and
- that appropriate safety net arrangements are in place to support the continuity of supply of carriage services during the transition to the NBN.
Further information on TUSMA can be obtained from www.tusma.gov.au.
On 1 July 2012 the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Regulation 2012 took effect. This provides for TUSMA to manage contracts for untimed local calls in Extended Zones.
The three-act package and explanatory material are available below.
Agreement between the Australian Government and Telstra
The universal service reform legislation set out above follows the agreement reached on 23 June 2011 by the Australian Government and Telstra for the ongoing delivery of the Universal Service Obligation for voice and payphone services and other public interest services as the telecommunications industry transitions to the National Broadband Network environment. TUSMA is responsible for managing the agreement with Telstra.
The government has prepared a policy statementâUniversal Service Policy in the National Broadband Network environmentâthat outlines the overall policy framework and sets out the key terms of the agreement with Telstra.
Past consultation on legislative universal service policy reforms
To implement the government's reforms to the delivery of universal service and public policy outcomes, a new legislative framework is required. On 23 June 2011, the government sought public comment on a proposed legislative reform package via the release of a discussion paper, 'Universal Service Obligation legislative reform for transition to the National Broadband Network'. The discussion paper set out proposals for the institutional, funding and levy arrangements necessary for TUSMA to administer contracts for the delivery of the USO and other public interest services.
Submissions in response to the discussion paper were due on 8 August 2011. These submissions informed the package of legislation passed on 21 March 2012.
A copy of the discussion paper and the non-confidential submissions received are available from the following page:
In October 2010, the Australian Government sought comments on the Universal Service Policy reforms via the release of a discussion paper, 'Implementation of Universal Service Policy for the transition to the National Broadband Network environment', which assisted the government in reaching its agreement with Telstra announced on 23 June 2011. This discussion paper and submissions received in response are available from the following page.
An important part of the government's universal service reforms is the development of safety net measures to ensure that assistance is made available to individuals and businesses who want to retain only a fixed-line voice-only service over the NBN fibre network as the legacy copper network is decommissioned.
In June 2012, the government released an information paper setting out its proposed voice-only migration arrangements and sought feedback from industry and other interested stakeholders.
TUSMA is responsible for administering these arrangement and the department has provided TUSMA with all stakeholder feedback received during the consultation period. It is expected that TUSMA will provide further information on the voice-only migration arrangements in the coming months.