Telstra’s obligation to provide landlines may be given the flick

The Productivity Commission’s draft report on the future direction of Telstra’s “Universal Service Obligation” has recommended scrapping Australians’ right to landlines.

The Commission argues that the cost of providing landlines will no longer be justified following the completion of the NBN rollout, particularly in view of the large uptake of mobile phones.  Subsidisation of payphones also faces the chop.  The Universal Service Obligation is paid for via levies on telecommunication companies in combination with government funding.

The agreement, which was supposed to run through to 2032, places an obligation on Telstra to ensure that standard telephone services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they live or work.  This includes services for people with a disability.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report makes NO mention of the health consequences of forcing Australians to rely on phone services provided via the nbn and mobile phone carriers. 

Five percent of Australian premises fall inside the NBN fixed wireless footprint, necessitating the erection of thousands of new base stations (towers) across rural Australia emitting pulsed microwave radiation.  In turn, subscribers’ premises must be equipped with a line-of-sight antenna to the base station.  The NBN equipment may be used for accessing voice-over-broadband as well as the internet; the downside is that this exposes subscribers to 24/7 pulsed radiation in the microwave range.  Evidently, the Commission doesn’t have a problem with this.  The alternative for people living in a fixed wireless zone will be to rely on a mobile phone service, if available.

People living in the estimated three percent of premises within the NBN satellite footprint won’t fare much better, if the Commission’s recommendations go ahead.  People using a satellite telephone connection will experience a disconcerting time lag whilst talking.  But then again, this isn’t viewed as a major problem, given that there may be scope for using a mobile phone as an alternative.

The Productivity Commission is obviously unaware of the growing numbers of Australians with electrical hypersensitivity (EHS).  These people will face difficulties living with NBN fixed wireless.  Due to their sensitivities, they also might not any longer be able to use a mobile phone, or may only be able to use one for a limited duration whilst taking precautions, such as using the phone in conjunction with an airtube headset.

The Productivity Commission is also obviously unaware that encouraging the uptake of wireless services may have serious long-term consequences for the health of the nation.

If you would like to have your say on the inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation, there is still time.  It is very important that the Commission is made aware, in particular, of the ramifications for the growing EHS population of losing the right to have a landline in the fixed wireless and satellite footprints.  A number of people with EHS have retreated to rural areas to escape being bombarded with electro-smog; if these recommendations go through, it will further add to their isolation!

The Commission is conducting hearings during late January through to early February at various locations.  People who are unable to attend in person are also able to present evidence via teleconference at the Melbourne hearing (7 and 8 February).  The Commission’s final report is due to be forwarded to the Australian Government by 28 April 2017.

You can view Stop Smart Meters Australia’s comment on the Commission’s draft report here.

For further details on this inquiry, along with information about hearings, go to: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/telecommunications#report

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32 Responses to Telstra’s obligation to provide landlines may be given the flick

  1. If Fixed Wireless NBN comes to your rural area,you can demand to keep your fixed copper line for your phone.Just tell them when you order your service. Only the Internet is being provided through the Wireless RF signal.
    Also there is away to use a none wireless modem for your Internet Service. No Rf inside the house that way. I will provide information for that. 03-62315354
    Michael

    • Cathy says:

      Michael, yes, you can keep your copper line in the fixed wireless NBN areas at the moment. But NOBODY will be able to keep a copper landline if the Productivity Commissioner’s draft recommendation to scrap the Universal Service Obligation is carried out! This would be a disaster for those us in the rural fixed wireless and satellite NBN areas!!

  2. fiona says:

    I’m confused isn’t NBN all wireless? I thought the fixed line is still wireless. I am building in a rural area with NBN planned. There is no phone connection so any ideas whether it is better to pay $10,000 to get it connected now before they begin on the NBN and before Telstra stops connecting fixed line. I would have to disconnect if it became wireless.

    • hi Fiona,Talk to me I will explain. Do not spend the $10000 yet.
      Michael Meyer as above

    • Cathy says:

      Most of Australia gets the fixed line NBN. This is cabled and uses fibre optic or a combination of fibre optic and copper (just for the last bit to the home). Cabled NBN is safe!! (Although these people also get a new set of problems as cabled NBN needs the power on to be able to operate, plus apparently a lot of the service providers are providing modems that emit radiofrequencies 24/7.) It’s those of us in the rural fixed wireless and satellite areas that will be up the creek if we lose our landline. We need to oppose the Commission’s unbelievably dumb draft recommendation!!

  3. Emily says:

    Just received a message from Telstra stating that my services (landline and internet) will be disconected this month if I don’t switch to Nbn. (We have Priority Assistance with Telstra due to a serious medical condition and can’t afford to be without a landline.) Any advice/assistance would be appreciated.

    • Bettina Rainforde says:

      The NBN is OK as long as you have guarantee of electricity supply. If your supply is threatened, then you need to put in an order for NBN in which case you can ask for it to be for the furtherest date possible and just prior to that day arriving, if you are still not ready to go with NBN, you will need to call in and reschedule for a future appointment date. It’s the presence of an order in the system for NBN service that will allow your existing service to remain connected to the copper. Not sure how Telstra will play it with Priority assistance but I know they have disconnected/suspended normal telephone services. In actual fact they suspend service. It means you can still use the service for dialing 000 Emergency but you cannot dial out to anyone else and neither can anyone call you. The the B@$+@rds ,will put a message on your phone asking you to ring 132200 to have the service reconnected which they will do but which I am led to believe will only remain reconnected for 48 hours if you do not put an order into the system for the NBN. If I were you I would also go into the NBN Co website and into the “Check your address” section and type in your address and check how many days you have and if you seem have time on your side according to the NBN Co website, I would take a snapshot of this screen and hold NBN Co to account should Telstra suspend your service which they will.

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem with NBN is it’s reliance on electricity to be able to function.

    • Let's get real about RF says:

      I’ve heard that the modem that Telstra supply for fixed line nbn has both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wifi connectivity plus DECT connectivity. I think it’s called the Telstra gateway modem. I don’t know if you can turn off all of these. Otherwise you’ll have RF 24/7. Maybe you could see if there is another service supplier, with a more life friendly modem, who can offer Priority Assistance??

    • Emily,Give me a ring I can provide you with info on the none wireless connection(copper) for your phone. Internet as above in my comments .
      michael Meyer Tasmania

  4. Graham says:

    I switched my phone and internet services over to the NBN last year. My home phone now works over the NBN with the same corded handset as before. Is this still considered as being a landline ?
    Or has my “landline” phone been done away with ?

    • Cathy says:

      Oh, so you must be on fixed line NBN? Pity those of us on satellite, or where only NBN fixed wireless is available. Losing our copper connections would be a disaster!

      • Graham says:

        Yes, I’m on fixed line NBN. Is Telstra saying I don’t have a right to this type of service ???

        • Cathy says:

          Wasn’t it the government who decided phone services over the old copper lines would be switched off in the NBN fixed line areas? Customers in these areas will have to switch over to using nbn’s network for their phone service. But at least fibre is safe!!

          • Cathy says:

            PS Just watch out for the in-home equipment (supplied by whichever telecommunications company you’ve selected) connected to NBN fixed line connections. Apparently it’s a minefield out there! A lot of the modems are emitting radiofrequencies 24/7, both for wifi and for cordless phone connections, with no off switch.

            • Graham says:

              Yes Cathy, when I switched over my phone and internet service to the NBN, the modem I was given had no on/off switch for wireless WI-FI communication. The default was that as soon as you switch the modem on it would transmit Wi-Fi throughout the house. Fortunately there was a way to switch off the WI-FI and that was through the software settings. The way to do it was through your computer where you open up a browser window and key the modem ID number into the url line and that would enable you to communicate with the modem and alter the settings so that the modem no longer transmits. So it’s OK but you are right and like you I would have been happy to have a hardware button on the modem to be able to switch off the wi-fi rather than through the software settings only.

              For me the real problem with the NBN is it’s reliance on electricity which puts a customer’s telecommunications essential service into that space where potentially the electricity distribution company can hold a customer to ransom now using both essential services and not just electricity.

            • Graham says:

              With copper telecommunications you just plug your basic phone handset into the copper line and use the service. No electricity is required and hence telecommunications is not subject to the nastiness of electricity distribution companies bullying their customers.

            • Please see my comments in this regard Michael M

    • No, If the power is out, you will not have a Phone service,
      Michael

  5. smart meter sufferer says:

    I just phoned the Productivity Commission and was told that it is not too late to put in a submission.
    They will be accepting submissions until the end of February, but encouraging people to put them in as soon as possible. It would be great if more people , especially those who are EHS or concerned about the health risks of mobile phones could write in.
    Anyone living in rural council areas should contact their council to make them aware of this important issue .

    • Janobai Smith says:

      The latest information is that people may continue to put in submissions after the end of February. The Commissioner said at the Melbourne February 7th hearing (page 48 of the transcript) that they always welcome submissions, just the earlier, the better, in order for it to be taken into account. The final report is expected to be handed to the Government in April.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks you for your excellent submission Janobai. Surely most people realise that mobile phones are harmful to children…perhaps some more submissions that focus on this?

  7. Christine Hooper says:

    I thought landlines – as public phones – are essential for safety/emergency?

    • Landlines are absolutely essential in emergencies! They are far more reliable than wireless communications. In Hurricane Sandy, those without a landline were forced to use payphones – there were blocks up to a block long for those babies!

  8. Christine Crawford says:

    Can’t wait for a bushfire to come in and cut off mobile phones…. It’s happened before…. then there’s those black spots…. Christine

  9. Andre says:

    We need to reach ‘critical mass’ as soon as possible !

    What is this world becoming ?

    It’s usually the big rich boys (Corporations) who make the decisions, in this case, it is us who must put a STOP to this madness!

    Imagine if they go ahead with their plans, which means that rural areas too, will be saturated in electromagnetic smog far & wide. Not only is this outright dangerous, stress levels will also be way increased etc.

    I think that the push for this is intentional!

  10. Terry says:

    Just another big corporation or government making decisions without the input of the public they were suppose to be serving and representing in their best interests. It should be our decision of whether we require the continuation of this service, just like the sale of Western Power here in Western Australia. We are the people that started these services and paid for them and we have the choice taken away. It’s not about whether or not the landline system is still viable financially! It is our decision to either continue or scrap it and that is what a democracy decides. Put it to a public vote and stop individuals having too much power in our so called democracy!

  11. Ava Silcock says:

    Are we going to oppose ??

    ________________________________

  12. Andrea says:

    How utterly ridiculous!!! I’ve been in a number of houses in the last few years with NO mobile service, Telstra, Optus or otherwise and with my health, a concern to people without landlines. What if I suddenly needed an ambulance? Some of these houses have been not terribly far from major cities, if just outside “city” borders (within ‘greater’ city borders). I never manage to get more than 100kms inland, it’s not as if I’m talking about 1/2way to Mt Isa, I’m talking about withIN greater Brisbane in some cases. Or, to translate to politicians and inner-city dwellers, the sort of places people on pensions HAVE to go to, to be able to afford housing! (Hello Mr Dutton.) Yet again, I’m a person with a disability who is STILL discriminated against! I’m on NBN right now, first time in 3 days, the NBN is RUBBISH. Watch it drop out again now as I tell people about it…

  13. Brigitte Kerrutt says:

    I am impressed with the submission! Six pages of well-researched facts – one should think that people with a conscience cannot dismiss it!
    Well done, Janobai.

  14. Tony Baron says:

    Does this mean that there will be NO new landline telephone connections?

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