While line quality and service reliability are likely to be among the key attributes a company looks for when adopting a new business phone system, the cost of running and maintaining a communications framework will also rank highly.
Affordability top of the agenda at ACCAN
In fact, affordability was top of the agenda at the Australian Communications Consumer Action
|There needs to be equitable access to essential government services.|
Network (ACCAN) conference, which was held in Sydney in September. This might not be too surprising - after all, communication has become such an integral part of our everyday lives that people across every socioeconomic group need to be able to access it.
ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin pointed out how technology has impacted the way we communicate and how essential it is in our day-to-day lives:
"Technology allows us to complete many tasks from the comfort of our homes, but questions regarding the affordability, accessibility and availability of communications services need to be addressed so there is equitable access to essential government services and those from other organisations," explained Ms Corbin.
"Affordability, along with a range of other issues, is often cited as a main barrier to getting connected to the internet and may present issues for some consumers to access services," she said.
This tweet from ACCAN discusses the advantages of disruptive technology that greater internet access could provide:
Debate - Disruption delivers choice and helps fix market failures #ACCANConf. Do you agree?— ACCAN (@ACCAN_AU) September 2, 2015
The statistics support Ms Corbin's assertions. For example, in 2013, Anglicare Victoria found that almost half (49.2) per cent of its low-income clients could not afford an internet connection at home, putting many modern lines of communication - VoIP phone systems, video calls, web-based chat and so on - out of reach to a significant portion of Australia's population.
What's the solution?
Widespread, high-speed internet is perhaps the first step to connecting Australia's poor and rural families, but even once it's in place, affordability issues will continue to persist.
Michelle Rowland, the shadow assistant minister for communications, outlined three possible solutions to these concerns:
- Establish a country-wide service fund, using NBN as the universal infrastructure provider, as recommended by Adelaide University Emeritus Professor of Telecommunications Reg Coutts'.
- Provide a free, low-rate internet connection to everyone in Australia, which provides access to all online government services, as described by RMIT University Senior Lecturer Mark Gregory.
- Channel some universal service obligation (USO) funds to finance connectivity in mobile blackspots via satellite, as advocated by the Victorian Farmers' Federation.
It still remains to be seen what effect the conference will have, but it's possible that in the future we could see lower telecommunication expenses for homes and businesses across Australia.