A Liberal MP drafted a private member’s bill with the support of 17 colleagues from the Coalition to Force Australian Telecom Operators to Improve Spotty Mobile Coverage and Poor Customer Service – a Particular Problem in the bush.
The legislation proposed by Julian Leeser would impose a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) to ensure that Australian consumers with mobile phones can make a call or access the internet inside their home or workplace instead. than having to look for a signal in an enclosure or a road outside their property.
While voice and broadband services are covered by an OSU, mobile phones are not. USOs are obligations intended to ensure that people have reasonable access to services both at home and at work. Leeser’s proposal would only allow telecom operators to claim that they provided mobile coverage in the affected area if the device could be used in most homes or businesses.
In addition to the OSU for mobiles, the bill includes a new customer service guarantee that ensures that no call to a carrier is left on hold for more than five minutes.
This guarantee would stipulate that any person without service at his home or at his business for more than six hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. over a month would obtain one month of free service from his supplier.
The bill would also make bonuses paid to telecommunications executives conditional on demonstrable improvements in customer service. It would hold businesses and management financially accountable for any preventable deaths caused by their inaction in disaster-prone areas.
When a coroner finds that a death would have been avoided had the telephone company acted differently, significant financial penalties would be imposed on the company and its executives.
Leeser says his proposal follows years of inaction by Australian telecommunications operators.
“Telecommunications is an essential service that people rely on, but for many people, telecommunications service is worse today than it was 20 years ago,” he said.
“We have kids studying for HSC who can’t connect with teachers because their internet isn’t working, teachers present online lessons from McDonald’s parking lot because they can’t receive reception at home. “
“We have people in danger of death who cannot dial triple zero because they do not have mobile reception. It is not good enough.
Seventeen colleagues – Liberals and nationals – expressed their support for the bill. Supporters include Pat Conaghan, Tony Pasin, Rick Wilson, Llew O’Brien, Jason Wood, Julian Simmonds, Anne Webster, Terry Young, Mark Coulton, Andrew Laming, Bert van Manen, Bridget Archer, Garth Hamilton, John Alexander, Damian Drum and Sarah Henderson.
When asked if he had crafted the private member’s bill and lobbied for party hall support due to government inaction, Leeser said Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, understood the problems.
“I thought it was a good way to signal that this is a new policy idea,” Leeser said. “One of the roles of backbenchers is to come up with new political ideas to solve the problems we face in our electorates – and that is what it is.”
If passed by parliament, the bill will force telecom operators to be more transparent with their customers about their performance, including by publishing details of customer complaints in their annual reports. This would require companies to disclose to new customers where they are ranked in a customer service ranking table established by the industry ombudsman.
Leeser also proposes to strengthen the ombudsman, enabling him to formulate binding guidelines and conclusions to resolve consumer complaints. The ombudsman would publish customer service rankings on his website.
Webster, a national MP representing the Mallee electorate, said a USO for mobile would go a long way in improving connectivity in the regions. She said services in the bush lagged behind metropolitan areas.
“Regional and rural areas, including in my Mallee electorate, experience worse connectivity, resulting in poorer outcomes for our communities,” she said.
Archer, a liberal representing Bass’s marginal seat in Tasmania, said Leeser’s proposal was necessary. “Living in a rural area myself, I understand the frustrations faced by voters in the northern region of Tasmania, especially those in very remote areas who have to rely at best on spotty or no mobile coverage, and extremely expensive satellite internet packages, ”she said. .
She said farmers and people trying to run a small business face accessibility issues “which can often leave them feeling like second-class citizens compared to their regional or urban counterparts.”
“There is also the issue of safety for those who work in the agricultural industry and I speak to many constituents who remain concerned that if there was an accident on a farm or a natural disaster, they would. find themselves without essential telephone services to call for help. “said Archer.