The Turnbull Government has released the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (USO), which will examine the role and relevance of these arrangements in an evolving market.
The USO has long existed as a regulated consumer safeguard providing access to standard telephone services and payphones on reasonable request to all Australians. This has supported social and economic participation, including in areas where those services might not otherwise be provided commercially.
With recent advances in technology and market structure changes, including the rollout of the National Broadband Network and the rising consumer uptake of broadband data services, demand for current USO services (standard voice services and payphones) has reduced and continues to decline.
The inquiry will examine Australia’s evolving telecommunications market to determine to what extent Government policies may be required to support universal access to a minimum level of retail telecommunications services; and if so, what the objectives, scope, cost, funding and reach of such interventions should be.
The inquiry was first flagged in the Government’s response to the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review, which was tabled in Parliament in February 2016.
In conducting the inquiry, the Productivity Commission will consider the Review’s report and the Government’s response.
The Productivity Commission is due to report to Government within 12 months.
Public consultation will be undertaken as part of the inquiry, with information available on the Productivity Commission website.
View the terms of reference for the inquiry [PDF 311KB].