The Australian government has introduced a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) that will aim to ensure all Australians have access to broadband services.
The new USG is designed to replace the long-standing Universal Service Obligation (USO) - which provides the right for all Australians to access fixed voice services - by adding an obligation to provide broadband as well.
Under the USO scheme, telecoms operators had been providing a portion of their revenue to fund the delivery of payphone and unprofitable fixed line services in rural and remote areas. The market's largest operator Telstra is then provided with funding to fulfil the obligations.
The USG will involve the delivery of broadband services over the National Broadband Network (NBN), including the fixed wireless and satellite components of the network for rural and remote areas.
Although dwindling payphone usage and coverage had led to suggestions that the payphone components of the USO not be included in the new USG, the government has decided to retain payphone services, but to conduct a “careful examination of payphone locations” instead.
Meanwhile the government announced it has now switched on more than 600 mobile base stations as part of the concurrent Mobile Black Spot program, which seeks to close gaps in mobile coverage in unprofitable areas.