A presentation on the federal government’s proposed changes to its telecommunications Universal Service Obligation provided the opening backdrop for the 47th Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association conference that got underway at Winton on Wednesday morning.
Phillip Mason, representing the USO Taskforce in the Department of Communications, said he wanted to make it clear that the proposed Universal Service Guarantee didn’t mean the copper network would be turned off.
The issue of replacing landlines with nbn infrastructure to fulfill the obligation that everyone, wherever they lived, has to have reasonable access to a standard telephone service, has been of great concern to ICPA members Australia-wide.
It essentially would mean transferring voice services to the Sky Muster satellite, and many rural families are not in mobile range to use that as an alternative.
Mr Mason said the existing arrangements would remain in place unless there was a clear alternative, summarising the feedback he’d received from stakeholders as there being some openness to delivery methods of the reliable, quality voice service they wanted.
“Mobile services are highly valuable but not seen as reliable, and consumers are highly sceptical of satellite services,” he said, leaving aside the question of how this impasse might be resolved.
His response to ICPA Queensland life member, Mac McClymont’s question about the future of radio concentrator phone systems under the new regime was that it was clear to him that people were very concerned about going on to what they considered a lesser service.
He told the conference his next step would be providing advice to the federal government in the third quarter of this year.
His address was preceded by Winton branch life member, Helen Collins, who said the delivery of services through technology required constant vigilance to ensure solutions were commensurate with the needs of rural and remote families.
“By and large, the issues of access remain the same for ICPA members, but the solutions are changing and will continue to do so,” she said.
This week’s state ICPA conference is the third hosted by Winton, having been the venue for 1995 and 2009 events as well.
Retiring president, Kim Hughes said the beauty of holding a conference was that it was not only about problems but about solutions.
She welcomed 40 new delegates and observers to the Digging Deep for Education themed two-day event.