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18 Apr 07 - Telecommunication safeguards
Minister for Communications
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today launched the regional telecommunications campaign, Your telecommunications safeguards: pointing you in the right direction.top
"Telecommunication services are essential for all individuals and businesses so it is important that they understand their rights and how to exercise them," Senator Helen Coonan said.
The campaign will consist of targeted television and radio advertisements, alerting people living in rural and regional Australia to the publication and distribution of a guide which provides details of how the Australian Government protects everyone’s right to essential telecommunications services.
"More than 3 million residents across regional Australia will receive the guide over the following months. The guide explains what to do if you have a problem and also the safeguards for consumers which include:
1. A guarantee that all Australians are entitled to reasonable access to basic fixed phone services and to payphones. Fixed timeframes for fixing phones and meeting appointment times. If these are not met, you may be entitled to compensation.
2. Faster phone connections for consumers with certain medical conditions.
3. Untimed local calls in most circumstances and capped local call prices for fixed phones.
4. A dedicated Ombudsman to handle complaints about telecommunications.
"The Australian Government is committed to consumer safeguards which deliver basic, vital telecommunications services to Australians, regardless of where they live," Senator Helen Coonan said.
18 Apr 07 - Optus threatens legal action on Coonan decision
Sydney Morning Herald, 18/04/07
OPTUS has threatened to take legal action if the Federal Government strikes a deal with Telstra to build a high-speed broadband network.
Other members of a group of nine telecommunications companies - called the G9 - which has its own plans for a $3.6 billion-plus network, also warned yesterday that up to $1 billion in broadband investments would be "torched" should the Government do such a deal.
In his strongest statement yet on broadband, Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan said the company would launch legal action if the Government struck an "uncompetitive deal" with Telstra. "The Government should not and must not rush into a deal or decision," he told a conference in Sydney.
Pressure has intensified on the Government to resolve a stand-off over investment in broadband since the Labor Party unveiled plans last month to invest $4.7 billion of taxpayers' money in a fibre-optic network.
The Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, shocked the industry two weeks ago when she said that if a broadband network was to be built in the "foreseeable future", Telstra would have to do it.
But Mr O'Sullivan said it was "simply not true" that Telstra was the only option for a network, emphasising the G9 plans. The group, which includes AAPT and Primus, ran full-pages ads in national newspapers yesterday to counter the claims.
The key sticking point for all sides will be the price rivals are charged for access to a new network. The G9 argues a commercial return can be made from charging wholesale prices of $21 to $24 a month while Telstra wants $90 a month.
Senator Coonan sought to quell industry fears yesterday by pointing out she was in talks with both Telstra and the G9 about their plans. "I don't think anyone needs to be concerned," she told the conference.
16 Apr 07 - Mobiles act as bee killers
The Independent, 15/04/07
It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".
Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.
Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."
16 Apr 07 - Optus leads Telstra in $600m race
Australian IT, 12/04/07
OPTUS has emerged as the frontrunner to knock off Telstra to secure up to $600 million of taxpayer funds to deliver high-speed broadband services in the bush.
The $600 million regional telecommunications fund, known as Broadband Connect, was promised as part of the Telstra sale package and a suite of announcements is expected in the lead-up to this year's federal election.
Tenders are being assessed by the Communications Department after a draft short-list was considered by some ministers. Optus, with potentially two other smaller players, is understood to be in the mix. A cabinet review is expected in two weeks.
Telstra wants to lock in access rules before it starts spending money on a new network, including a commitment that competition regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission not change rules after a deal is reached.
And it wants special arrangements and services for regional Australia to be recognised.
Optus, which has delivered a comprehensive briefing to Senator Coonan on its proposal, including a ballpark wholesale price of $21 to $24 a month for access, said yesterday that any discussion about changing rules should include others in the industry. top
13 Apr 07 - US: Women lead internet usage
Sydney Morning Herald, 13/04/07
A study released on Thursday indicates that more women than men go online in the United States, defying the perception of the internet as a male-dominated realm.
Approximately 97.2 million women use the internet in the United States, compared to 90.9 million men, according to research by eMarketer.
Women are the supreme communicators and the internet makes it easier for them to communicate and socialise.
For example, women and girls make up the majority of the users on popular social-networking website MySpace while only 45 per cent of the audience at video-sharing website YouTube.
Seventy-eight per cent of male US internet users will watch video online this year while 66 per cent of the female users will, according to eMarketer.
Women are inclined to use the internet to accomplish tasks instead of as a diversion, according to the eMarketer report.
More women are expected to take up viewing video online in coming years as broadband connections become ubiquitous and television shows they like are made available on the internet, according to eMarketer.
The eMarketer study estimates that 66.2 per cent of female US residents three years of age or older will use the Internet this year as opposed to 64.2 per cent of male residents in the same age range.
12 Apr 07 - AAPT finds family time for phones
Brisbane Courier Mail, 11/04/07
ABOUT 40 per cent of parents believe their children's fixation with technology is robbing the family of precious face-to-face time, a study has found.top
The research by AAPT shows 16 to 20-year-olds spend an average of 3.2 hours a day using some sort of technology. This compares with only two hours of face-to-face communication spent with parents.
Almost half of the 1000 parents surveyed believed two hours was not enough time and would prefer about seven hours of face-to-face time with their children throughout the day.
Despite this, almost 80 per cent believe technology has helped their family to stay in contact.
AAPT communications manager Stuart Hilton said the findings showed parents generally viewed technology as a double-edged sword when it came to family time.
"There is this technology that can be really great or really adverse to your family – what's the best way to get the best out of it?" Mr Hilton said.
"It affects the family fabric from a micro level – a third of Australian parents believe keeping up with technology is a burden on the family budget.
"It's not so much keeping up with the Joneses in having the latest car or the latest boat, it's all the technology stuff that goes with it."
Mr Hilton said technology was helping give children a stronger sense of individual identity and independence. "There's a fair bit of time and trust put into what these kids are doing," Mr Hilton said.
The study's findings show 80 per cent of Australians own a mobile phone, while three quarters have a computer with some type of internet connection. Meanwhile, only 26 per cent have a personal MP3 player.
12 Apr 07 - Hard hitting penalties for mobile thieves
UK: Mobile phone thieves could face up to five years in jail or an unlimited fine under tougher sentences introduced at the beginning of the month.
Coupled with the fact eight in 10 phones are blocked within 48 hours, the message from the Government, police and mobile phone industry is, these devices are not worth stealing anymore.
The tougher sentences will be meted out when a new offence is introduced tomorrow; that of offering to or agreeing to (or offering or agreeing for a third party to) re-programme a mobile phone.
12 Apr 07 - Use your phone in-flight
The Courier Mail, 12/04/07
QANTAS passengers will be able to use their mobile phones in flight within the next few weeks if a planned trial goes ahead.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will monitor the Australian-first three-month trial, which involves one modified aircraft – a Boeing 767 on domestic routes between capital cities.
A Qantas spokesman said the aircraft had a modification on board that resembled a mobile phone base station.
"It's called a Pico cell, which is a very low transmitting device which will essentially allow the aircraft to act like a country in the sky so you put your mobile on to international roaming and off you go," he said.
Passengers will be restricted to text messaging and sending e-mails in deference to their fellow passengers and will be charged international rates.
Incoming calls will be restricted.
CASA corporate communication manager Peter Gibson said the use of the Pico meant there wouldn't be "any risk to the safety of the aircraft".
"The way it works is your phone, when you are using it in the aircraft, will be emitting extremely low levels of power – phones adjust the amount of power they put out according to how far they are the from the base station . . . and of course here, the base station is going to be above your head," Mr Gibson said
11 Apr 07 - Government to save $50M on phone bill
Australian IT, 10/04/07
NSW has carved up its fixed-line and mobile phone bill between several contracts worth at least $420 million.
New NSW Commerce Minister Eric Roozendaal said the agreements, expected to be announced today, would save the state $50 million annually.
From next financial year, the government will use a combination of services from AAPT, Macquarie Telecom, Optus and Telstra for fixed voice and mobile, satellite and paging services, in contracts worth a total of about $140 million over three years.
The newly contracted carriers were selected from 15 service suppliers invited to bid as part of a request for tender issued in September.
"Many agencies will benefit from savings of more than 30 per cent on the cost of a standard fixed-line call," said Mr Roozendaal.
06 Apr 07 - Telstra lowers Qantas club broadband fees
Telstra has quietly made the lives of business travellers much easier by dropping charges on its wireless hotspots in Qantas Club lounges.
Telstra has enjoyed a monopoly on wireless Internet access in domestic Qantas Club locations since July 2003, scoring itself a nice little earner by forcing users of the lounges to pay its 20 cent per minute access rates (plus a 25 cent connection fee).
This month, however, Telstra has quietly begun offering the service for free within Qantas lounges. Users who connect to the network are now greeted with the following message: "You are eligible to use the Telstra Wireless Hotspot service if you are within the coverage area of one of Telstra's designated wireless hotspots in a Qantas Club Lounge. You do not have to pay for this service." Users who access the service elsewhere within Australian airports will still have to pay, however.
Neither Telstra or Qantas has issued a media statement about the changed arrangement, which brings Qantas in line with Virgin's rival Blue Room, which has offered free wireless access to its members since its launch in May last year. Free Internet connections are a common feature in many other airline lounges, representing a relatively cheap way of attracting business customers whose premium-rate air fares easily cover the associated costs.
05 Apr 07 - Solar powered mobile phones
European mobile manufacturers are looking at ways to incorporate mini solar panels into mobile phones as a means of extending standby life of a phone to a week or more.
The panels would be less than 50mm wide and provide a charge of 11mA. This development is seen as necessary as new phones have many more power hungry applications and the solar technology is seen as the way to move forward.top
05 Apr 07 - Mobile phone bandit snapped
NY Post, 04/04/07
A man caught in a mobile phone photo after allegedly swiping a teen's pricey T-Mobile Sidekick walked into a Queens station house yesterday, but wasn't immediately charged.
The man's candid-camera shot was published in The Post yesterday, along with allegations from Queens teen Shannon Walcott that he had swiped her phone.
The 18-year-old said she photographed the man with a spare mobile phone she was carrying.
The incident occurred as Walcott was riding the Q-27 bus in Queens Village on March 26.
She told cops that a man ran up and snatched her Sidekick, and then got off the bus at the next stop.
Undeterred, she followed him and got his photo with her spare mobile. She turned the photo over to police.
To the cops' surprise, the man walked into the station house yesterday.
04 Apr 07 - Government set to jump on Broadband
Australian IT, 04/04/07
THE Government has signalled its willingness to cut a deal with Telstra to kick start a $5 billion fast broadband network, raising the prospect of regulatory changes and the injection of more taxpayer funds.
In the face of a well-received proposal by Labor to help fund a national broadband network, Communications Minister Helen Coonan said yesterday regulations were "very flexible" and "minor regulatory adjustments" could be made to accommodate Telstra.
Senator Coonan admitted for the first time that the Government had begun talks with Telstra "weeks ago", before Labor's promise to spend up to $4.7 billion in taxpayer funds on a national broadband network.
"There are ways through, and they (fibre networks) are fairly complex. They involve a lot of risk, a lot of money on the table," Senator Coonan told The Australian. "It's important that we work through and ensure the particularly regulatory concerns are addressed."
Telstra's' plan had "evolved significantly" and the two sides had made "mutual contact" last month to look at the telco's proposal, she said.
Senator Coonan described the proposed new network, which Telstra said would get most Australian speeds of up to 100Mbps, as a "different set of circumstances" to accessing the telco's existing copper network.
Canberra committed $2 billion to a Regional Communications Fund and $1.1 billion Broadband Connect Fund. Senator Coonan left open the possibility of more funds. "I haven't finished my assessment."
Optus regulatory chief Paul Fletcher warned of any special deal with Telstra. "Telstra's argument assumes that the first element, namely physical availability, is all you need," he said.
"But it ignores the market structure. It assumes that a national high-bandwidth network is a good thing at any price - even if the price is destroying competition."top
03 Apr 07 - Banks to go mobile
Australian IT, 03/04/07
AUSTRALIA'S major banks are using their New Zealand subsidiaries to test mobile phone-based banking applications, and at least one of the big four is tipped to bring the technology across the Tasman this year.
At least one of the major Australian banks and up to three of the second-tier operators are expected to launch mobile-based banking systems in Australia this year.
At least one Australian bank would offer a service more advanced than SMS banking.
Australian banks remain coy about their local plans.
"We have no immediate plans at this stage, but are keeping a watching brief on this space," a St George spokeswoman said. ANZ also said it had "no specific plans at this stage".
NAB, which owns the Bank of New Zealand, said it viewed mobile phone banking as "an emerging channel".
It's thought that if the banks do not act, others will step in and offer mobile banking services, with telcos and payment service providers such as Bill Express and PayPal tipped as potential players.
In the Philippines, more than 10 million people are now banking with their mobile phone operator. top
03 Apr 07 - Broadband battles
Sydney Morning Herald, 03/04/07
TELSTRA claims it is no closer to resolving a deadlock over investment in a high-speed broadband network, despite industry speculation it could be on the verge of a deal with the Federal Government.
Pressure on the Government to break the impasse has intensified since the Opposition unveiled proposals to invest up to $4.7 billion of taxpayers' money on a network as part of a public-private partnership.
Telstra's outspoken public policy chief, Phil Burgess, said he had received indications the Government had "more sensitivities to these issues" than the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Telstra and the regulator remain locked in a stand-off over the allowable rate of return from charging rivals access to a new network.
But rivals fear the Government could make concessions to Telstra. The Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, does have the power to make pricing determinations, which could deliver a higher rate of return on a new network for Telstra than the ACCC has been willing to allow.
Senior industry leaders met officials from the offices of the Communications Minister and the Prime Minister in Canberra last week to discuss issues about investment in broadband.