Australian Productivity Commission releases terms of reference for Universal Service
The Australian Productivity Commission (Productivity Commission) has announced the terms of
reference for its public inquiry into the telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (USO).
The inquiry is timely in light of the profound changes that have occurred in the telecommunications
sector since the inception of the USO, including the decrease in demand for standard fixed line voice
services and payphones, and the increase in demand for broadband data services.
Such changes have led to significant international developments in the sector. In Britain, the
government is now pursuing a 'broadband' universal service obligation, which, according to Prime
Minister David Cameron, will put access to broadband on a similar footing as other basic services like
water and electricity.
The Australian Government has asked the Productivity Commission to critically assess the extent to
which government intervention in the telecommunications market is required to support universal
access to a minimum level of retail telecommunications services. The inquiry will also address
optimal funding models for the USO going forward, and the appropriate apportionment of regulatory
The precise nature of any changes to the USO will be outlined in a report to be released in April
2017. Submissions from the telecommunications industry and consumer groups will be sought prior
to that date.
For more information, please contact Anne-Marie Allgrove, Toby Patten or Matthew Dempsey.