Telstra's connection service improving but ACA still watching

Telstra has six months to improve its performance for new service connections in areas not readily accessible to infrastructure, the Australia Communications Authority has claimed.

The regulatory authority's may consider formal intervention if service levels fail to improve, the report reveals.

The report of an investigation into Telstra's performance under the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard and the universal service obligation released today reveals a "significant decline" in Telstra's connection services between the period from June 1998 to June 1999.

An additional report, also released today, suggests an improvement in Telstra's connection services, but according to Neil Whitehead, acting executive manager for the ACA, "there is still room for improvement".

Whitehead said while service levels had improved since June 1999, it is more appropriate to compare yearly results rather than quarterly results due to weather patterns.

For the June 99 quarter, only 63 per cent of urban customers were connected within the CSG timeframe of one month and 56 per cent of customers were connected in major rural locations in the specified time, the report said. Figures for June 1998 were 73 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.

Figures released in the Telecommunications Performance Monitoring Bulletin for September 1999 report that 79 per cent of new services requested in urban areas without infrastructure were connected within the CSG timeframe and 71 per cent of major rural customers were connected.

According to the ACA, by June 2000, Telstra is expected to increase new connections for urban customers by at least 10 per cent and 6 per cent for major rural areas compared with the June 1999 figures.

Inadequate infrastructure, including an ageing and under-provisioned customer access network contribute in part to Telstra's poor performance, the ACA said.

The ACA is planning to monitor Telstra's performance over the next 6 months by receiving detailed monthly reports from the telco, the report said.

According to Whitehead, one option for regulatory action if Telstra's service levels fail to improve would be to issue a direction for Telstra to "pick up its game".

Failure to comply with the direction could see Telstra potentially face penalties of up to $10 million for each breach and up to $1 million a day thereafter, Whitehead said.

"But the threat of potential action is sometimes just as effective," Whitehead said.

The ACA monitors Telstra's performance under the CSG Standard as part of its reporting obligations under the Telecommunications Act 1997.

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Luisa Bustos

PC World

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