Geopolitics must not influence the management and operations of the Internet, and sanctions should not disrupt access. We must defend this resource. Read our Statement: https://www.internetsociety.org/news/statements/2022/defend-the-internet-stop-the-splinternet/
Internet Australia are concerned with the limited time allowed for consultation on this Bill. The Bill was referred to this Committee on February 10, allowing less than three weeks for submissions. The Bill impacts on a potentially broad range of industries, allowing them only a limited period in which to understand the implications of the Bill and develop fulsome responses to this Inquiry. Almost every aspect of telecommunications infrastructure and services will be impacted by this Bill. Under the proposed definitions, a ‘critical telecommunications asset’ - networks and facilities owned and/or operated by a carrier or CSP and used to supply a carriage service - would cover all public telecommunications. A data or processing service is defined as enabling end-users to ‘store or back up data and supplied on a commercial bases or processing service involving the use of one or more computers and supplied on a commercial basis’. Under the Bill, there would be few telecommunications industry providers not subject to requirements under the proposed legislation.
Communications in regional, rural and Australia has always lagged behind the communications technologies available in metropolitan areas. In response to the growing digital divide that was evident in 2005 the Government mandated that an inquiry be held every three years into ‘the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural, and remote parts of Australia’ . The concerns that were expressed about communications outside of metropolitan areas in the first Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) report are very similar in emphasis to those which are being raised in this latest inquiry: connection and fault repair times for fixed line services and access to affordable broadband services.

Despite the efforts of governments in responding to a succession of RTIRC reports over the past 15 years, there continues to exist a patchwork of broadband connectivity in regional Australia which constrains the activities of businesses both small and large, and the abilities of residents to effectively access systems and services that urban dwellers take for granted – for instance (and highly significant in these past two years) many non-urban students are still unable to effectively participate in home schooling.

Reliable and dependable data communications networks are essential for people and businesses throughout the country. Consumers and businesses must be able to be confident that services will be installed, connected and made available in a predictable timeframe, have predictable and adequate and (importantly) warrantable capability with recourse for rectification if a service does not meet required standards. Once operating, customers must have the confidence that a failed service will be rectified swiftly, or otherwise customers will be forced to waste funds on backup services and secondary capabilities that should not be required. These requirements are even more urgent in non-urban areas where there may not be any viable backup or alternative service, and the travel times to access alternatives are more often prohibitive.

The NBN – as intended in its formation – has become the dominant and largely monopolistic infrastructure that most Australians rely on for Internet communication. Internet communication has become as essential as the other main utilities of water and electricity, and possibly more so. The NBN and Internet has also effectively taken over the telephone system, so when these other utilities fail, it is to NBN-dependent communications methods that affected people turn to, whether by web-based Internet portals, social media updates via Twitter and Facebook and similar services, or ringing the organisation via telephone call (over an NBN access service) that most people need to turn to report the problem, find the status of the problem, and initiate a repair.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the essential nature of ubiquitous always-on Internet connectivity in very sharp focus, for all demographics but particularly the less well-off in society. With so many people home-schooling children, working from home using video-conferencing, businesses turning to online catalogues and e-commerce sites to provide ordering systems for home delivery of goods and services, home-delivery and “click’n’collect” systems for essential goods such as food and groceries, without high-speed broadband the ability of Australians to cope with the emergency would have been greatly constrained.

With the online-first nature of provision of information about the pandemic and local status updates by government, continuously updating online lists of exposure sites and travel restrictions, online booking systems for vaccinations, and application systems for relief payments all being online, and the essential need for all of society to quickly search access for the latest information about virus-related issues which are made available first online, it is self-evident that without the high-speed broadband Internet system underpinned by the NBN, the ability of governments to manage the crisis and provide information and services to citizens would also have been greatly constrained.

For these reasons a broadband service must be ubiquitously available, of sufficient capacity and quality to access government-provided services and assistance channels at a minimum, and affordable - a low enough retail price point (possibly at zero price to the end user) that disadvantaged and very low income families and individuals can subscribe without feeling like it is a luxury. Around 20 per cent of the population is still not connected, and a sizeable proportion of that 20 per cent simply cannot afford the current service offerings – yet still require a broadband Internet link for their children’s education and accessing essential services from home while being required or encouraged to stay indoors and not travel to a service storefront.

Appropriate regulation of the wholesale input costs to retail service providers is required to ensure services are universally available at a much lower price-point than the current NBN-supported entrylevel price that appears to have settled around $60/month in the retail market.

Internet Australia welcomes the release of the first in-depth economic study into the likely detrimental impact of TOLA (Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, also known as “Assistance and Access Act”) anti-encryption legislation passed in 2018.
The report identifies the TOLA Act measures have the potential to result in multiple billions of dollars of significant economic harm for the Australian economy and produce negative spillovers that will amplify that harm globally. Economic harms are likely to be broad and long-lastin

Full Release Here
ISOC Media Release Here
Full Report Here

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