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Optus says renewal of USO deal ignores reality

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Australia's second biggest telco, Singtel Optus, says Wednesday's announcement by the Federal Government about arrangements for the Universal Service Obligation being retained as such does not reflect "real changes in policy, market and technological realities".

The company's vice-president of Regulatory and Public Affairs, Andrew Sheridan, said in a statement: "It is deeply disappointing that after countless reviews recommending wholesale changes to the USO, the government continues with a policy that fails to deliver competition for regional consumers while subsidising Telstra with next to no transparency and accountability of how these funds are being used."

The government announcement said it would continue to use Telstra copper and wireless networks in rural and remote Australia for providing voice services in NBN fixed wireless and satellite areas.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield claimed this decision would ensure certainty for people, particularly those in remote and rural areas.

Sheridan said every year the government and Telstra's competitors contributed $150 million which allowed the dominant telco "to use their infrastructure to promote their brand across hundreds of metro and regional locations nationally and cross subsidise their services".

Optus had made an offer to divert its annual $50 million contribution to regional and rural telecommunications services, he said. These could include deploying new satellites for 100% coverage.

Sheridan said: "Optus supports the delivery of telecommunications services for all Australians and has invested billions in our mobile network to deliver competition and choice for regional and remote communities.

"Despite standard mobile voice services reaching over 99% of Australian households, there continues to be insufficient recognition of mobile networks as a legitimate provider of voice services.

"Optus calls for the immediate release of the Telstra USO Performance Agreement and the implementation of annual reporting by Telstra to provide taxpayers and industry with transparency and accountability moving forward."

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