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1 Queensland Government Response to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy proposed consumer safeguard instruments on Universal Service Payphone Standards, Performance Benchmarks, Location Rules, Consultation Requirements and Complaint Rules

2 Table of Contents Executive Summary...3 Overview of Queensland s position...4 Payphones in Queensland...4 Payphone Network Criteria...5 Performance Standards and Benchmarks...5 Payphone Location...6 Public Consultation...8 Payphone Complaint Rules...8 Commentary on proposed Determinations on Consumer Safeguards...9

3 Executive Summary As a widely decentralised Mainland State, effective telecommunications networks and services are important to Queensland and the continued provision and operation of the payphone network is of particular interest. A proportion of the Queensland population will continue to be dependent the payphone network into the foreseeable future, especially in remoter areas of the state where mobile telephone coverage is weaker services. The creation of the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) to ensure the ongoing delivery of universal service obligation by contracting with third parties along with the greater involvement of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in monitoring contractors performance is viewed as a positive development. It is of some concern that there has been a downward trend in the numbers of payphone over the past five years this trend requires halting to ensure that consumers still have reasonable access to a payphone when it is needed. Payphone services provide a safety net communications service to citizens who cannot afford other communications services and travellers who are outside mobile coverage. It is important therefore that the performance and maintenance of the payphone network is of a consistently high standard and that effective safeguards are in place to ensure it continues to do so. Reduction in the time required to establish payphone and improvements maintenance of the payphone network, especially outside urban locations need to be achieved. The location of payphones and the criteria by which their locations are determined are of interest given Queensland widely dispersed population. The distance between phone locations in rural areas are in a Queensland context overly long especially so in areas where mobile phone coverage is inadequate. The proposed process indicated in the Determination on Public Consultation is comprehensive and provides safeguards to ensure that communities have the opportunity to respond to changes in the distribution of payphones. However, the process should include greater use of different media channels with longer periods of notification to increase the likelihood that as many members of a community as possible are aware of changes regarding local payphones. The codification of the process and procedures regarding the complaints process is welcomed. This delineation of the role of all parties especially the role of ACMA will provide greater surety for the public that any complaint process is fair and equitable.

4 Overview of Queensland s position As the most widely decentralised Mainland State, effective telecommunications networks and services are important to Queensland and the continued provision and operation of the payphone network is of particular interest. A proportion of the Queensland population will continue to be dependent the payphone network into the foreseeable future, especially in remoter areas of the state where mobile telephone coverage is unavailable. The creation of the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) to ensure the ongoing delivery of universal service obligation by contracting with third parties on behalf of the government is considered to be a much needed improvement to the current environment. The greater involvement of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) monitoring contractors performance is welcomed. The availability of a functioning payphone can, given the extremes of weather that Queensland experiences annually, can become a matter of life and death. Payphones in Queensland From there has been a steady reduction in the total number of payphones available nationally from a high of 58,320 payphones in 2006 to a figure of 35,012 payphones in This decline represents a reduction of 23,218 payphones, or 40%, over the period. Reduction in Numbers of Payphones Payphone numbers nationally Total Numbers of Payphones Linear (Total Numbers of Payphones) The average annual reduction for the period is approximately 12%, if this trend continues it is estimated that by 2015 there will be less that 5000 payphones available nationally. While this situation is unlikely to be realised, it does highlight the rate of reduction of payphone numbers which is of growing concern to the Queensland Government, especially in rural areas where the removal of a payphone may have direct and indirect consequences on the social fabric of small isolated communities.

5 Drawing on data provided in the annual ACMA Communications Report for 2010 it is estimated that there are 4699 Telstra payphones in Queensland 1 representing 25% of all Telstra payphones in Australia. Of those payphones located in Queensland 1435 or 22% are located in rural and remote areas and in Remote Indigenous Communities. A comparison of the distribution of non urban payphones nationally indicates that 31% of all non urban payphones are located in Queensland. Payphone Network Criteria The continuation of the payphone network therefore is seen as a priority. It is the Queensland Government s preference that it should be underpinned by the following criteria: Relative ease of access to population especially in the rural and remote areas of the Queensland Demonstrable high levels of reliability and availability Consistent achievement of parity of performance benchmarks throughout the network Located as a reflection of local need Responsive to change over time. The social impact of decisions to reduce payphone numbers and locations where alternative communication channels are inadequate or unduly costly to the customer must be a factor in any assessment criteria relating to removal of payphones. Payphone services provide a safety net communications service to citizens who cannot afford other communications services and travellers who are outside mobile coverage. Public payphones are used by people who, amongst other things: cannot access a fixed line or mobile service due to associated costs are travellers from overseas or who have no fixed abode are temporarily unable to use their own mobile service due to lack of phone charge credit, battery power or mobile phone signal just wish to maintain their privacy. Performance Standards and Benchmarks The primary universal service provider must comply with standards established in the safeguards and there a number of listed circumstances beyond the control of the provider. The majority of these circumstances are reasonable, reference is made to the migration of services to the national broadband network, the modification, maintenance or upgrade of a facility or network that is used to supply the payphone or a payphone carriage service. Since a number of payphone locations could be operating over a Telstra copper network the safeguards should avoid any confusion by clarifying whether this circumstance will apply to provision of services by Telstra over its copper network to locations outside the NBN fibre network. 1 Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Communications Report for 2010, page 79.

6 As noted in the Determination from 1 July 2012, the TUSMA will ensure: that all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service that payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service a safety net to assist the migration of voice only customers to a National Broadband Network fibre service as Telstra s copper customer access network is decommissioned technological solutions are developed as necessary to support continuity of public interest services (that is, public alarm systems and traffic lights). Under the proposed reforms, Telstra will continue to be required to provide payphones to Australians under a contract with TUSMA. The necessary role of TUSMA as contract manager means that the monitoring and action about changes in performance benchmarks and standards will assume a central importance. The maintenance of the payphone network is of considerable importance in isolated communities and in some cases can be a matter of life and death. In the main, maintenance of the payphone is high and meets requirements envisaged in the proposed safeguards. Performance of fault restoration for rural payphones was less satisfactory with 13% of faults not being repaired within specified performance requirements. While this figure is one which requires improvement the ACMA Communications Report for indicates that Telstra s fault repair performance for remote and Remote Indigenous Communities payphones was outside the established USO performance requirement by 34.6% and 43.1% respectively. Maintenance performance with regard to these locations is far below acceptable requirements and will require close scrutiny to ensure that the proposed safeguards are consistently applied and met by the service provider. It will be necessary to develop a scale of appropriate financial penalties that can be invoked should service provider performance fall below the consumer safeguard requirement. The involvement of ACMA in arbitration and monitoring roles will ensure that greater scrutiny can be applied to operation of the payphone service provider and the delivery of the universal service obligation generally. This involvement is supported. Payphone Location The Determination will provide at departure point in ensuring that the standards associated with the provision of payphones will remain under the control of the Australian Government through TUSMA for the benefit of the community rather than the service provider. Since much of the arrangements in the proposed safeguards are drawn from the Telstra Standard Marketing Plan it is appropriate that the table below extracted from Telstra s 2 Australian Communications and Media Authority Report 2010, page 81

7 Universal Service Obligation Standard Marketing Plan is used to highlight several of the shortcomings with regard to the timeframes for the establishment of a payphone service in rural and remote locations. The timeframes noted below for the Minor Rural Area and the Remote Area payphone locations are indicative of a slow response to demonstrated need for a payphone in a small community. In the event of a summer of severe weather it could well be closer to 9 months before any such payphone is installed and operational. Service Location Category: Urban Area and Major Rural Area Minor Rural Area Remote Area Time for supply: Within 3 months of Telstra informing a customer of its decision to install a payphone Within 6 months of Telstra informing a customer of its decision to install a payphone Within 9 months of Telstra informing a customer of its decision to install a payphone It is unreasonable to wait for six months in Minor Rural areas and nine months in Remote Areas for a public phone service 3. The Queensland Government position is that the installation of payphones in rural and remote areas should be a matter of 4 months and 6 months respectively from the moment of announcing that an installation is to occur. Queensland has a widely dispersed population. A large number of small communities particularly in the western areas of the state are not provided with adequate mobile phone coverage. The absence of mobile coverage emphasises these communities dependence on fixed line communications with payphones providing an important role in ensuring effective communications. Distance between payphones therefore is of increasing significance in areas of low population concentration, the smaller the distance between payphone locations the greater the social benefit in these areas In the context of small and isolated communities it is unreasonable to expect that the nearest payphone would be: 40 km away from a small town, where costs are covered; or 250 km away, if the small service centre is located in an unprofitable area The distances associated with payphones standards need to be reduced considerably. The Queensland Government position on this matter is that the installation of payphones in smaller rural and remote areas on highways and major roads where there is inadequate mobile phone coverage should be on the basis of the specified radius for payphone location of 100 kilometres, similar to that for national parks, rather than current 200 kilometres indicated in Telstra s Standard Marketing Plan document. Similarly a single interpretation of the term reasonably accessible may not be appropriate. 3 Telstra s Universal Service Obligation Standard Marketing Plan page 25

8 The term should be interpreted in terms of the differing conditions applying from state to state, for example in larger states such as Queensland long distance separates scattered small townships. This separation should be taken into account when defining reasonably accessible in Queensland. Public Consultation The proposed process indicated in the Determination on Public Consultation is comprehensive and provides safeguards to ensure that communities have the opportunity to respond to changes in the distribution of payphones. There is an assumption in the Determination that communities operate along and are represented by formal bodies, e.g. local councils and that the communities will have access to website where notices and information is held. Access via the web may not necessarily be the most appropriate channel to ensure access to information. In small rural communities there is a greater likely of the existence of a digital divide and the existence of more informally organised but none the less effective community groups. Accordingly it is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on local newspapers and more effort be focussed on using representative community groups as communication channels to ensure that the community is more fully informed of changes to the location of payphones. Payphone Complaint Rules The codification of the process and procedures regarding the complaints process is welcomed. This delineation of the role of all parties especially the role of ACMA will provide greater surety for the public that any complaint process is fair and equitable. The safeguards assume that the general public will access website in preference to other media channels how ever that may not be the case in relation to isolated communities. Consequently publishing details of the freecall general service contact numbers and multilingual enquiry lines in a state and national newspaper every six months would ensure increased likelihood that the complaints process becomes more widely known. These Determinations on consumer safeguards for payphones will establish much clearer regulatory process and requirements for the service provider and the public about what can be expected with regard to the provision of, and access to, payphones under the Universal Service Obligation.

9 Commentary on proposed Determinations on Consumer Safeguards Of the 78 Clauses that compose the five Determinations, 64 have been accepted without comment. The comments below refer to those Clauses and Schedules on which the Queensland Government has a particular view. Determination Subject matter Response Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Payphone Performance Standards) Determination (No. 1) 2011 Clause 9 Maximum timeframes to install new payphone phone Not appropriate for rural and remote areas. Suggest that maximum time frame to install new payphone for the rural and remote categories be four (4) months and six (6) months respectively Clause 10 Rectification of faults Not fully appropriate. Appropriate for transition but not appropriate for post transition phase. Suggest that maximum time frame for these categories are urban 10 days, rural 15 days and remote 20 days respectively. Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Payphone Performance Benchmarks) Instrument (No. 1) 2011 Clause 5.1.b Primary universal service provider must comply with standards Not fully appropriate New clause Circumstances beyond the control of the provider may include: in connection with the migration of services to the national broadband network, the modification, maintenance

10 or upgrade of a facility or network that is used to supply the payphone or a payphone carriage service is confused Some clarification of whether this circumstance applies to delivery of services by Telstra over its copper network to locations outside the NBN fibre network? It would be expected that any migration would be planned and that the impact on the community would be minimal. Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Location of Payphones) Determination 2011 Clause 11 Category 3 payphone location criteria Not fully appropriate Clause 11.2 to include Clause 14 Defines the term eligible payphone request and sets out conditions and requirements. If the place or area is the subject of an eligible payphone request that has been made on behalf of 50 or more adults who reside in Australia Not fully Appropriate. Insertion of a new sub clause 14 (6) An eligible request may be submitted via the universal service provider webpage or by fax, or letter to an identified

11 Subclause 14(5) Clause 23 Schedule 1 to the proposed Determination. Reduces the risk that persons will revive requests for those payphones already determined not to be reasonable or to confer a net social benefit on the local community Provides that a primary universal service provider must make the register available to the public on its website Schedule 1 identifies places and areas which fit within each category. person or area of responsibility within the universal service provider organisation. Not fully Appropriate Insert modified 14.5 sub clause a) an eligible payphone request has been made with respect to the same place or area within the period commencing two years, or in the case of a category three location one year, prior to the date of the request b) a payphone was removed from the place or area, in accordance with this Determination, within the period commencing two years, or in the case of a category 3 location one year prior to the date of the request; Not fully appropriate Insert at addition Clause 23 (2) and provide regular updates on the website that match payphone register information supplied to ACMA Not Fully appropriate. Small service centres on highways and

12 major roads in rural and remote areas where there is inadequate mobile phone coverage. Specified radius to be placed at 100 kms (similar to that for national parks) rather than current 200 kms Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Public Consultation on the Location or Removal of Payphones) Determination 2011 Clause 5 Written notification of proposal to specified bodies individuals Not fully appropriate. Clause 5 (2c) Insert new sub clause community groups in small service centres and remote communities listed as category 3 locations Clause 5. 5(a) Amend clause to read in a local newspaper at least twice during the 42 days prior to the date specified for the purposes of paragraph (3)(d) Clause 5.5 (b) insert new sub clause each notification in the local newspaper to have a separation period of 15 working days with the second notification being published no later than 10 working days

13 prior to the closure of the notification period. Clause 7 Notification of decision Not fully appropriate Clause 7. Insert new sub clause 7.1 c to the local newspaper. Clause 9 Clause 12 Notification of removal when no payphone remaining at site Publication of payphone removal proposal Not fully appropriate Clause 9. Insert new sub clause 9. 2 e make printed copies of the payphone consultation document available to local council for reproduction purposes to ensure access is available to those customers without online access. Not fully appropriate Insert new sub clause 12.2 A notification under subparagraph 9(2) (c) (i) must be published twice in the local newspaper with a separation period of 15 working days between each publication. The first notification to occur at least 42 days prior to the date specified for the purposes of paragraph 10(3)(c) and the second notification being published no

14 Clause 13 Requirements for payphone consultation document later than 10 working days prior to the closure of the notification period Not fully appropriate Insert new sub clause 13.3 c Clause 15 Payphone removal at least 1 payphone remaining at site at site Make printed copies of the payphone consultation document available to local council for reproduction purposes to ensure access is available to those customers without online access. Not fully appropriate Insert new sub clause 15.2.d a local newspaper for publication. Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Payphone Complaint Rules) Determination 2011 Clause 8 Means for receiving complaints Not fully appropriate Insert new clause 8.2.d publishing details of those freecall general service contact numbers and multi lingual enquiry lines in a state and national newspaper every six months.

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