Telcos ready for showdown over landlines in the regions


Sheridan said the only beneficiary from the current deal is Telstra, which he said receives over $200 million per year in net funding from industry and government with no accountability over its effectiveness.

A Telstra spokesman said the telco would welcome changes to modernise the USO, and has spent several years calling for changes.Credit: Penny Stephens

“Since the Universal Service Obligation began, Optus has paid Telstra around $1.4 billion to support Telstra’s delivery of the universal service – this money could have been used to build over 1500 more mobile towers across regional Australia,” he said.

“As identified by the minister, advancement in wireless and satellite technologies in recent years open the possibility of delivering better services for our most remote communities.”

A Telstra spokesman said the telco would welcome changes to modernise the USO, and has spent several years calling for changes.

“We are excited by the opportunities reforming the USO can bring, including connecting people with the latest technologies like satellite and fixed wireless,” the spokesman said.

TPG also welcomed the review. “We are hopeful it will pave the way for improvements in the delivery of services to regional Australia by removing subsidies for Telstra’s redundant copper network,” a spokesman said.


Rural Australia has become a battleground for Australia’s telcos over the past year, with the competition tribunal in June blocking a $1.8 billion regional network sharing deal between Telstra and TPG, ruling it would entrench Telstra’s dominance in the bush.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said the USO was no longer fit for purpose, given it came into effect when Telstra was privatised and the technology mix didn’t include mobiles.

“The Nationals believe in reforming the USO to extend the mobile phone network, with mandated roaming and the removal of averaging time periods for repairs,” he said.

“If Telstra can’t meet those requirements then the government should seek other companies to take up that contract.”

It comes as NBN prices are set to rise for millions of Australians in coming weeks, with retailers including Telstra, Optus and Aussie Broadband all lifting prices of their lowest speed plans.

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