With just over a month to go before Australia's federal election, you're going to be hearing a lot from every side on the economy, negative gearing, health and the environment. But anyone who reads Gizmodo is going to have be listening for answers to Australia's most pressing tech questions — and ACCAN has identified the five most pressing issues prioritised by tech-minded Aussies.
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As part of its election coverage, ACCAN is keeping tabs on each party's policies and announcements relating to the communication industry — largely meaning "phones and internet". It has identified what it believes will be key issues for communications consumers, which include the following five points:
•Affordability – a review of the Centrelink Telephone Allowance to ensure that low-income consumers stay connected. •Consumer protections – updated consumer safeguards for fixed-line services to ensure fast fault repairs, connection times and reliable services. •Broadband monitoring – an independent broadband monitoring program to allow consumers to compare broadband service performance by retailers. •Accessible ICT procurement – introduction by the Federal Government of a comprehensive policy to only purchase accessible ICT equipment and software so that consumers with a disability can access services. •Accessible programming on TV – the Broadcasting Services Act should be amended to expand captioning requirements across all free-to-air channels, and for the introduction of audio description services across all free-to-air television so that all consumers get equal access to information and entertainment content.
Interestingly there's no mention of the NBN — something that Australians have been hoping for a policy shift on ever since FTTN was announced. There is a mention of better consumer safeguards to ensure 'fast fault repairs', however, which is especially relevant in the wake of Telstra's widespread NBN and ADSL outages.
ACCAN has raised these issues with the major Australian political parties — the Liberal Party, Australian Labor Party, the Nationals and the Greens. ACCAN has also sent them all a list of questions that interrogates their policies on these matters in more depth. The questions are as follows:
1. What is your policy to ensure every Australian can get a reliable internet connection and have faults repaired in a timely manner? 2. Many promises have focused on the maximum performance of a telecommunications service, for example connection speed. How will your policy ensure a minimum level of performance (e.g. connection speed for end users during peak times)? 3. How will you ensure the continued expansion of mobile coverage in rural and remote Australia? 4. Does your party support a policy to provide independent broadband performance monitoring so consumers can have better information about the speed and quality of a service? 5. Do you have a policy to ensure that Australians who can’t afford an internet connection can still get online? 6. Will your party support a whole-of-government procurement policy for accessible ICT to enable Australians with disability to have greater opportunity for economic, social and community participation? 7. Australians with disability need greater access to television. Will your party commit to both implementing Audio Description on free-to-air television and increased captioning across commercial television networks? 8. Does your party have other communications policies that you would like to share with consumers?
ACCAN will be posting the answers on their site as they receive them, as well as updating on any official policies released.
Many of ACCAN's questions focus on accessibility — an issue that's easy to forget about if you have easy access to communications services. As we move further into the digital age, however, it's important to make sure that all Australians have access to affordable, top-quality internet, mobile and entertainment services no matter whether they live remotely, are low income earners or have disabilities.
None of the parties have yet responded to ACCAN's questions, though we'll be looking out for their policies on these key topics.
What issues are most important to you this election? Let us know in the comments!