Contact-ability framework for the delivery of universal services

Main Article Content

Rachel Thomas


Telecommunications, Universal Service,


The Universal Service Obligation (USO) ensures access to voice communication services to all Australians. The obligation has changed very little in comparison to the telecommunications market and consumers’ use of services. This presents a number of gaps and risks for consumers as safeguards do not exist for the communications services that are used today, such as data and mobile services. However, updating the obligation to include these services alone will likely fail consumers. Furthermore, focusing on distributing resources does not take into consideration the resulting outcome for consumers; how they utilise the opportunities that they have or the barriers that they may face. This paper outlines the imperative for action in this area and argues for a new framework based on a principal of contact-ability. This new framework will have four key areas; availability, affordability, accessibility and service standards. A further two additional areas; online service delivery and literacy and empowerment, are also needed to fully ensure contact-ability is achieved.

Abstract 392 | PDF Downloads 0 Contact-ability Framework Downloads 0


Ackerberg, D. A; DeRemer, D. T.; Riordan, M. H. Rosston, G. L.; Wimmer, B. S. 2013, Estimating the Impact of Low-Income Universal Service Programs, Centre for Economic Studies.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 2014. ‘8146.0 - Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13’. Available from:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 2015. ‘Changes in the Prices Paid for Telecommunications Services 2013-2014’

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). 2014. ‘Communications Report 2013 – 2014’.

Australian Government, Bureau of Communications Research (BCR). 2015. ‘Final consultation nbn non-commercial services funding options.’

Australian Government, Department of Communications. 2013. ‘Broadband Availability and Quality Report’.

Australian Government, Department of Communications. 2014. ‘Telecommunications Regulatory and Structural Reform’.

Australian Government, Department of Social Services. 2011. ‘National Disability Strategy 2010-2020’.

Communications Alliance (CA). 2004. Industry code c519:2004; End-to-end network performance for the standard telephone services.
Corner, S. 2012. ‘Universal Telecommunication Services: A brief history and analysis of issues surrounding the new Australian legislation on the universal service’, Telecommunications Journal of Australia, 62(2), 22.1-22.9

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR). 2015. ‘Ireland’s Broadband Intervention Strategy. Connecting Communities. National Broadband Plan.’

de Ridder, J. 2013. ‘Entry Level Pricing for Fixed Broadband’

de Ridder, J. 2015. ‘The future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO)’. Occasional Paper for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Goggin, G. 2010. ‘Realising Universal Communications’. Working paper for inaugural ACCAN conference.

Garnham, Nicholas. 1999. "Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to the evaluation of welfare: Its application to communications." Communication, Citizenship and Social Policy: Rethinking the Limits of the Welfare State.

Grant, A; Raiche, H. 2012. ‘Chapter 7: Consumer protection and universal service’, Australian Telecommunications Regulation, 4th Edition

Lewin, D; Milne, C. 2010. ‘Are telecommunications services universally affordable across the EU? An independent assessment for Vodafone’.

National Broadband Network (NBN). 2014. Shareholder Minister Letter of Statement of Expectations. Accessed from:

Ofcom. 2010. ‘Joint UK submission from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Ofcom to the European Commission’s Consultation on Universal Service Principles in e-Communications.’

Regional Telecommunications Review. 2015. ‘Regional Telecommunications Review. Unlocking the potential in regional Australia’. Report by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee for the Australian Government.

South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS). 2015. ‘Cost of Living update, No.22 March Quarter 2015.

Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). 2015. ‘TIO complaints down year-on-year, but landline and Internet complaints increase’. Accessed 27 November 2015. Available from:,-but-landline-and-Internet-complaints-increase

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011

Telegraph. 2015. ‘BT aims to shut down traditional phone network to help it battle US tech giants’. The Telegraph, 24 June, 2015.Available from:

Telstra. 2015. “Telstra submission to the Bureau of Communications Research NBN non-commercial services further options consultation paper”. Submission to Department of Communications Consultation.

Turnbull, M. 2015. ‘Mobile Black Spot Programme to deliver almost 500 new or upgraded base stations with total investment of $385 million’. Accessed 27 November 2015. Available from:$385_million#.Vlfox79Cxf4