Regional Telecommunications Review: the Government responds The Australian Government has published its response to the Regional Telecommunications Review 2015: Unlocking the potential in regional Australia report (Review), which was tabled in October 2015. The Review made 12 recommendations on how to improve the provision of telecommunications services in regional areas across Australia. In particular, the Review: emphasised the importance of mobile coverage in regional areas: the potential of co-investment and leveraging of existing and planned infrastructure to improve telecommunications; and queried whether existing consumer regulatory safeguards were still relevant and useful in a post National Broadband Network (NBN) environment. The Government's response to most of the Review's recommendations emphasises current initiatives already underway. For example, the Government notes that its investment in the NBN is already being leveraged by private sector operators to deliver additional telecommunications services in regional Australia, and that existing policy already allows the NBN Corporation to extend the boundary of its fixed wireless footprint as a substitute for satellite where necessary. More generally, the Government response indicates broad support for the possibility of implementing a number of recommendations once the impact of the completed NBN can be better assessed. However, the Government has conceded that the current consumer protection regulations - which were designed for a fixed-line environment in which Telstra was the major provider for both retail and wholesale fixed-line services - should be reconsidered in light of the expansion of telecommunications markets and the rollout of the NBN. In particular, the response makes clear that the effectiveness of the Universal Services Obligation (USO), under which Telstra receives significant annual funding to install and maintain fixed-line services, will need to be reassessed, given that communications products and services are increasingly diverse and are not necessarily delivered via fixed-line infrastructure. Indeed, the Government response queries whether a service delivery obligation is required at all if a regulatory obligation is imposed on NBN to provide the infrastructure required for service delivery. This commitment to reviewing the USO is likely to appease those telecommunications providers who have previously questioned its ongoing relevance as a consumer safeguard. Further, while the Government response cautions that it would be premature at this stage to decide on the appropriate regulatory model (and any funding arrangements), it has requested that the Productivity Commission undertake a review into the need for a universal services regulation in the changed telecommunications landscape. The terms of reference for this review are set to issued this year. For more information, please contact Anne-Marie Allgrove, Toby Patten, Matthew Dempsey or Emma Burn.