The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), a body representing telco consumers, wants providers to be required, by law, to offer low-income products. The request comes as ACCAN releases a report into Aussies on low incomes and the affordability of products, plans and services in Australia.
ACCAN, in its Addressing Telecommunications Affordability: Evaluating Support for Low Income Consumers report, says telcos could do more to support the needs of low-income groups with their connectivity and telecommunications needs.
These calls are nothing new. ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin even adds “this is not news to the telecommunications industry”.
In compiling its report, ACCAN surveyed a bunch of Aussies and found 57 per cent of low-income consumers experienced some difficulty paying for NBN or other broadband services, and 59 per cent experienced some difficulty paying for a mobile phone service with data.
The majority (87 per cent) of those surveyed said a discounted service would be the most helpful support for them, and 69 per cent hardware/device affordability support was crucial. Despite all of the privacy concerns over joining public Wi-Fi, 62 per cent of those surveyed said they wanted access to better free connectivity.
Corbin is of the opinion that telcos have had this data for years and are yet to act, so now the issue requires the government to step in.
Currently, only Telstra is required to offer a product targeted at low-income households under Carriage Service Provider rules, but ACCAN would argue this isn’t enough.
Specifically, ACCAN is calling on the federal government to review the affordability measures offered by telcos to determine to new ways to deliver affordable services to people on low incomes. This review should then inform new regulatory requirements on telecommunications providers to offer affordable services targeted to people on low incomes, including a concessional NBN home broadband service.
“With more and more government services moving online, it is only fair that the government take steps to ensure that the people who use these services are able to get connected,” she says.
Also requested by ACCAN is the establishment of an independent phone and internet plan comparison tool so we can easily search and compare affordable plans.