- All communications towers for mobile phones should be owned and operated by a government agency, allowing equal access for every telecommunications company at the same rates, based on the cost of installation, operation, and maintenance, allowing the companies to compete properly on service standards;
- The NBN should remain entirely in government hands, with the same equal access for every telecommunications company, at the same rates.
- The NBN should have power provision, including the use of backup or remote power supply, to ensure that a standard landline phone connected to the NBN will still work in the event of a power outage in the area – which could also reduce capacity on mobile phone towers.
During the first few days of May 2017 we have heard not only that the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (the ACCC for short) has sided with Telstra and Optus is rejecting a call by other telecommunications operators to open up access to their mobile phone towers to allow for other companies’ clients to use the roaming facility, but also that farmers across the country are suffering because of poor data communications preventing them from using technology which will improve productivity.
In the early days of this century, and before, if you made a long distance call on a landline phone the cost of that call depended on the distance between customers. From Perth’s northern suburbs I could call someone locally, and it would cost me an untimed “local call” fee; if I rang someone in the southern suburbs I would be charged on the basis of a timed “community call”; and if I rang someone in Melbourne or Sydney the cost of that call rose dramatically, even though well over 95% of the cost of providing the service involves connecting each subscriber to the local exchange. It literally cost the service provider almost the same for call from Perth to Thursday Island as for a call between neighbours in the same street. That’s because the costs of installation and maintenance on each connection to the exchange are supported only by calls and rental associated with that copper pair, whereas the costs of installing and maintaining connections between exchanges are supported by millions of calls, made by a range of subscribers. The long-distance call structure was a way of making huge profits at the expense of the public.
A few years ago my family spent a number of months in Moora, 180km north of Perth in the Central West district. Before going there my wife and I had a mobile phone account with a small company and could call each other as often as we wanted at no cost above the monthly plan fees. Those phones could not be used in Moora as there was no roaming facility, so I had to change to the only operational service, with Telstra. The recorded arrangement showed I had confirmed that the same cover, where we could call each other at no additional cost, would be provided by Telstra, but my first bill was well over $200, compared with the $60 before I swapped, because we were charged for every call. Since we had no choice but to be with Telstra the company could charge much higher fees with impunity.
The NBN’s “Fibre To The Premises” connection will only allow a connected standard landline phone to work if there is a working power supply on the premises (such as a UPS server) to provide for the conversion from optical to analogue signal. “Fibre to the Node” customers have no such connection possibility, even though it exists while they are still through the copper network, and even though the copper network connection is still used from the node to the premises. This is a serious downgrade in service. NBN Co has assumed that everyone has a mobile phone which could be used, but there are areas where reception is too poor to be trusted, even in metropolitan areas. This essential safety issue MUST be addressed. So far the only responses I have got from NBN Co have avoided the essential question of “WHY has this not been provided?”