When the NBN comes, it will replace existing phone lines. Telephones, like most other forms of communication, have gone digital, and the traditional analogue plain old telephone system (POTS) is fast becoming a thing of the past.
The migration from the POTS to the provision of standard telephone services over the NBN has raised a number of issues, such as the necessity to ensure that emergency 000 calls are still available.
There has also been considerable controversy in the telco industry over how the Universal Service Obligations (USO) are to be addressed. The USO is a requirement that all Australians, no matter where they are located, have access to a phone service.
When the Australian telecommunications industry was deregulated in the early 1990s, the USO remained with Telstra, as the former government-owned monopoly. The government has paid Telstra to fulfil its obligations, but now rivals Optus and Vodafone have said that subsidy is anti-competitive and no longer necessary, because the NBN’s coverage will replace it.
This week the Federal Government has released a draft ‘Migration Assurance Policy’ for public comment. The Department of Communications said in a statement that the draft policy’s goals are to minimise disruption to end users when the NBN becomes the carrier of telephone lines, and to prioritise continuity of service and target vulnerable end users for assistance. Not everyone will want a broadband NBN subscription, but may still want a basic POTS phone service,
The draft policy document features a “policy statement and a framework for ensuring an effective end-to-end migration process for end users.” It also sets out the Government’s expectations for the fixed-line migration process:
- Migration should be end user focussed and industry led.
- The provision of migration information should be timely, accurate and consistent.
- Migration should be encouraged early in the 18 month migration window.
The statement says that a key element of the policy is “promoting active industry involvement to ensure that NBN end users, particularly those who are vulnerable, are given the opportunity to migrate well before the disconnection date, with minimal risk of unexpected interruption to their services.”
The policy has been informed by the migration experiences of the first 31 NBN rollout regions, where there were examples of people having the phone services cut. Submissions on the Migration Assurance Policy consultation paper released last year, the Communications Alliance Copper Migration Processes and Solutions Working Committee and industry consultation.
The Department of Communications said in its statement it will continue to work with stakeholders to refine and finalise the policy. “The policy will be updated as required over time including to address additional migration issues as they arise.”
Comments on the policy paper should be sent to email@example.com. Submissions close on 20 August 2015. The draft policy is available at: https://communications.gov.au/have-your-say/improving-transition-fixed-line-national-broadband-network
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