The Guardian July 31, 2002


Lame con job on Telstra

The proposed inquiry into rural telecommunications services will be as 
used a pretext for the National Party to support the full sale of Telstra, 
a lame con job on the people they purport to represent  rural 
Australians.

They know the privatisation of Telstra means the end of cross-subsidisation 
of services to rural and remote areas, resulting in increased telephone and 
other communication charges, and cuts in services, for regional 
Australians.

The Nationals are promoting the Government's "billion dollar package for 
the bush", trying to placate the concerns of rural voters. But the 
Communications Division of the CEPU says the focus should be on the growing 
problems that are already happening in Australia's telecommunications 
network.

The problems arise from major staff cuts and the contracting out and sale 
of the various Telstra services. The union dismissed the inquiry as 
shortsighted.

Faults in the system had increased and rural areas in particular are 
bearing the brunt of the deterioration of the network. The outcome in 
practical terms will be major disruptions to services.

For example, the Australian Communications Authority has reported a 13.2 
percent increase in faults in the Telstra network during 2000-01, the last 
time such figures were released.

"But there are problems everywhere", said the Communications Division 
President, Colin Cooper. "For instance, in NSW one in five major cables has 
no gas in it. All it would take is a heavy storm and there would be 
outrages all over the state.

"And there's just not enough capacity in the local network, city and 
country, to deal with customer demand. This will become increasingly 
obvious over the next few years as more people start to demand higher data 
rates from the copper network."

Mr Cooper said that many people in rural areas already have had to pay for 
boosters to get the 19.2 kilobits per second speeds that the Government had 
promised them.

He said such problems point to a long-term issue of network investment 
which the Government has no answer to.

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