The process of deregulating Australia 's telecommunications market and privatising Telstra has increased the focus on the delivery of communications services to Australian rural and regional areas.
While allowing a dynamic telecommunications industry to develop, this process has included a number of mechanisms to ensure consumer protection. Measures have included the consolidation of customer service safeguards in the Telecommunications (Consumer Protections and Service Standards) Act 1999, as well as a number of inquiries to assess the adequacy of services around Australia. A particular focus of enquiry was services available to rural and regional areas.
The next review will be conducted by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) in 2008. The ACMA's role in this inquiry will be to provide research support, drawing on previous reviews such as:
The RTIRC was established to undertake regular reviews into the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia. While the scope of the up-coming inquiry has not been defined, past inquiries have typically looked at services such as:
- fixed and mobile phones,
- pay phones, and
- internet services.
The ACMA has released three reports about the availability of communications services in Australia. The reports highlight the changes occurring in access to communications services, and include maps representing the availability of services such as ADSL and mobile phone coverage.
- Communications Infrastructure and Servics Availability in Australia 2006-07
- Communications Services Availability in Australia 2005-06
- Telecommunications Services Availability in Australia 2004-05
Remote indigenous communities
Access to communication services for remote Australian indigenous communities has been a matter of interest in recent ACMA reports.
The Regional Telecommunications Inquiry 2002 included two recommendations for the provision of telecommunication services to remote Indigenous communities, which the ACMA has implemented.
The ACMA Communications report 2005-06 included a chapter focusing on the take-up and performance of telecommunications services and access to broadcasting services in remote Indigenous communities. The report recognises that indigenous communities are among the most disadvantaged in Australia , and that they have special needs for the provision and maintenance of telecommunication services.