Revisiting the Universal Service Obligation Scheme

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Simon Moorhead


history, telecommunications, NBN, Universal Service Obligations, USO


In this Journal’s tradition of revisiting past papers which have relevance to today’s events, this article reminds us of the value of the paper “Better telecommunications services for all Australians.” (2015) by Reg Coutts. This paper makes five interrelated recommendations to replace the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) policy in Australia, given the NBN rollout and customer preference for mobile services anywhere anytime.  Some of its recommendations were arguably taken up by the Productivity Commission’s Public Inquiry into the USO in 2016-17, and implemented by the Australian Government in the form of a new Universal Service Guarantee.


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Coutts, R. (2015). Better telecommunications services for all Australians, Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, 3(4), 89–107.
Fifield, M. (2017). Turnbull Government to improve regional telecoms delivery with new Universal Service Guarantee, Media Release, 20 December 2017. Available at
Gerrand, P. (2021). Emeritus Professor Reginald Paul (Reg) Coutts (1949-2021), Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, 9(3), 186–193.
Productivity Commission. (2017). Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation, Report No. 83, Canberra. Available at