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Oz Senate signs off USO legislation

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The last important legislative component of the Australian government’s National Broadband Network is in place, with the Senate yesterday passing legislation needed to put new universal service arrangements in place.

The legislation establishes a new agency, TUSMA (the Telecommunications Universal Services Management Agency), which will assume responsibility for ensuring Australians’ access to services. This will replace the legacy regime under which Telstra was tasked with delivering universal service.

As well as ensuring access to basic telephone services and that payphones don’t pass completely into cultural history, TUSMA will be responsible for ensuring that Telstra continues to offer emergency call services, and to maintain the relay service provided for the hearing-impaired.

The agency will also be responsible for the continuity of services during the transition to the NBN.

The current universal service regime is funded by levies on carriers, one of which is calculated according to carrier revenue. The federal government will supplement the funding with an initial $AU50 million annually until 2014, and $AU100 million annually after that.

The new arrangements will also replace the two levies on telecommunications carriers, used to calculate their USO contributions, with a single levy. ®

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