New regulatory powers and lower NBN prices delivering better broadband for consumers
New consumer protection, greater transparency and lower wholesale prices are delivering an improved experience for users on the National Broadband Network (NBN). The Australian Communications and Media Authority [ACMA] released new rules to stop the handballing of complaints between telcos and nbn, giving the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman better tools to help resolve complaints.
The ACMA will also issue new requirements for retailers to publicly release complaints statistics to help consumers differentiate between retailers based on the quality of their customer service.
The NBN is being rolled out at such a rapid pace that around 30,000 homes and businesses are making the switch every week, and 3.6 million are already connected. While the overwhelming majority of users have a smooth migration onto the NBN, we want to ensure the ACMA is a strong cop-on-the-beat, armed to protect consumers from the handballing of complaints. The new ACMA rules follow the announcement of a new NBN monthly customer experience progress report. The first report showed 89 per cent of NBN installs are done ‘right first time’, 92 per cent of installations are completed on time, and 85 per cent of faults are repaired on time.
The progress report reveals NBN’s new pricing has led to a jump in users enjoying speeds of 50 Mbps and faster; and a dramatic reduction in network congestion – meaning more reliable high-speed broadband, even at peak times.
The ACMA’s new complaints-handling rules are the first of a range of consumer protections announced by the Government in December last year.
The ACMA will also undertake further research into modem quality, potentially leading to the introduction of technical standards, or a modem performance rating scheme.
Grants supporting ex-service organisations now open for applications
Applications are now open for the Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) grants and Grants-in-Aid for ex-service organisations. These grants help ex-service organisations provide vital advocacy services for current and former serving men and women which help veterans with their compensation claims and also ensure they get correct access to entitlements and services.
More than $4 million in over 155 grants have been provided to ex-service organisations supporting veterans under these programs in 2017-18 and I encourage all ex-service organisations to apply for this round of grant funding.
Applications for both grant programs close on Thursday 19 April 2018 with payments to the successful applicants to be made before the end of 2018-19 financial year.
Organisations needing assistance with online lodgement are encouraged to seek help through the Community Grants Hub.
For information about how to apply for grants online, see the Community Grants Hub website: www.communitygrants.gov.au or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website: www.dva.gov.au
Skilling Australians Fund to drive apprenticeship growth
The latest report on the number of apprentices and trainees currently in training provides encouraging signs, and confirms the need for the full implementation of the Nationals-Liberal Government’s strategy to boost Vocational Education and Training (VET).
Figures released by the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) found there are 261,900 apprentices and trainees in training, as at 30 September 2017.
Positive signs are continuing to emerge: commencements of trade apprenticeships increased by 4.2 per cent in the September quarter, the number of construction trades workers in training jumped by three per cent, and machinery operators and drivers increased by nearly 18 per cent.
Overall the figures show how important the Coalition Government’s $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund is to providing thousands of new opportunities for Australians in apprenticeships and vocational education.
The Fund will create an extra 300,000 apprenticeships and traineeships over the next four years, and when combined with the $60 million Industry Specialist Mentoring service, we will ensure the skilled workforce Australian industries need for future growth.
The Federal Government has funding available right now for states and territories to sign up to the Skilling Australians Fund and submit projects so we can work together to address looming skills shortages in priority industries.