The ACMA

Carriers and service providers

Universal service obligation

USO services

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is specified in Part 2 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. The USO requires the Primary Universal Service Provider (PUSP, currently Telstra) to ensure standard telephone services, payphones and prescribed carriage services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they live or work. Telstra's USO website indicates how Telstra intends to fulfill its PUSP obligations.  Read on to learn more about the services offered under the USO.

Standard telephone services

Section 6 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 defines the standard telephone service (STS) as being:

  • a telephone service fit for the purpose of voice telephony
  • if voice telephony is impractical for a person with a disability, a form of communication that is equivalent to voice telephony.

Telstra is currently the sole universal service provider and is obliged to provide an STS to anyone in Australia under the USO. Other telephone companies may also provide an STS.

For most people, the STS means a basic fixed line telephone used to speak with people in other locations. Carriage service providers supplying a STS are required to provide end-users with:

  • local, national and international calls
  • 24 hour free access to emergency service numbers
  • a unique telephone number with a directory listing, unless the customer requests otherwise
  • operator assisted services
  • directory assistance
  • itemised billing, including itemised local calls on request.

Under the USO, the supply of the STS includes the provision of a standard telephone handset on request for an additional cost.

Disabled access to STS

For people who are Deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, an alternative form of communication, such as communicating by text using a teletypewriter (TTY) or modem, is a form of communication considered to be equivalent to voice telephony.

For people with an impairment associated with hearing, speech, vision, dexterity or mobility, the obligation extends to the provision of equivalent forms of telephone equipment, such as volume control phones, hands-free phones and TTYs. More information for people with a disability can be found on the Australian Communication and Media Authority (the ACMA)'s disability access webpage.

STS conditions

The conditions, charges and specifications for the STS are outlined in the General Conditions and Public Switched Telephone Service sections of Telstra's Customer Terms (formerly known as Standard Form of Agreement).

Maximum timeframes for supply and repair of the STS are outlined in the Basic Telephone Service section of Telstra's 'Our Customer Terms' available from Telstra's website. These are dependent on:

  • the existence of a previous connection
  • the population of the specific area
  • the availability of Telstra infrastructure (such as local telephone exchanges, main cables and radio distribution systems).

Telstra's STS performance is monitored by the ACMA and is published on the ACMA website.

Payphones

As the sole universal service provider, Telstra must ensure that payphones are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they are.

Telstra operates various types of payphone terminals that provide:

  • local, national and international calls
  • 24 hour access to emergency service numbers, free of charge
  • operator assisted services
  • directory assistance.

A proportion of Telstra's payphones are Smart Payphones, which accept both coins and Phonecards for call payment. Smart Payphones enhance access and usage for people with a disability, by providing features such as an adjustable volume control, a built-in acoustic hearing aid coupler, and a tactile orientation mark on the '5' of the dial keypad.

Telstra also provides payphones with built-in TTY machines, for use by the Deaf, hearing or speech impaired. These are primarily located at high usage sites such as major shopping centres, airports and hospitals.

Some key criteria for payphone installation are:

  • proximity and access to privately operated payphones
  • availability of a suitable and safe site
  • level of permanent population and home telephone connection in the relevant community
  • anticipated level of demand and revenue
  • anticipated impact on individuals and businesses.

Enquiries on the supply and installation of Telstra operated payphones, including the public consultation process on their location, and resolution of any location complaints, should be directed to Telstra's payphone enquiry line on FREECALL™ 1802244.

Any individual or community group can apply for the installation, relocation or removal of Telstra operated payphones by mail to Telstra's Payphone Siting Manager, Locked Bag 6658, Sydney NSW 1100.

More information on the processes used by Telstra to decide whether to install, relocate or remove payphones, and the required timeframes and consultation that must be undertaken can be found on Telstra's payphone website.

Telstra's payphone performance is monitored by the ACMA and is published on the ACMA website.

Last updated: 25 May 2016

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