COVID19: Keeping Australians Connected

Keeping Australians Connected – the telecommunications industry

Edition 4

Australia’s communications service providers - responding to COVID-19 and customer needs

Keeping you connected:

  • Telecommunications networks in Australia and internationally continue to see increased demand due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, particularly as people are placed in lock-down, working from home and/or education is conducted online. The whole profile of daily demand on networks has changed, with much more traffic being carried throughout the daylight hours and in non-CBD areas than previously.
  • Telcos continue to work closely with Government and each other to ensure that Australians stay connected.
  • There have been no widespread COVID-related impacts on data services, such as broadband.
  • All service providers are working hard to minimise any disruptions and maintain our vital communication networks, including the provisioning of extra capacity wherever the risk of congestion becomes apparent. This includes Triple Zero and other emergency service communications.
Contacting your provider:
  • While Telcos will keep their retail outlets open where possible, in accordance with social distancing policies, customer numbers permitted in-store will be limited. We strongly encourage customers to first try online self-service options and check providers’ websites for up-to-date information, before heading to a store.
  • It is also recommended to explore the self-service and online options – including interactive chat and customer forums - to interact with your service provider and get advice, rather than calling the customer service number. Providers’ call centres are under higher than usual pressure at present and you may experience longer wait times.
  • Another issue has been the imposition of major COVID-19 lock-downs in some offshore countries, including places that provide IT and/or customer service and technical support for Australian service providers.

Support is available:

  • At this time, connectivity to communication services is as critical as ever for all Australians. Keeping Australians connected, including those who experience hardship and may be unable to pay their bills due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, is a key priority for telecommunications providers and the Government. Industry and Government have issued principles on hardship provisions, to help ensure all Australians can remain connected and have access to the services they need.
  • All providers have Financial Hardship assistance available and must provide flexible repayment options to meet a customer’s individual circumstances. Financial Hardship policies are always available on a provider’s website, including guidance on how to apply for assistance. We strongly encourage anyone having difficulties paying their bills to ask for help.
  • In addition to the Financial Hardship assistance always available, some providers have specific COVID-19 assistance available for Australians impacted by lockdowns. These include free extra or unlimited data and pausing small business plans for those who need to shut down temporarily. Check your provider’s website to see what’s available and how to access it.
Tips for customers:
  • Try using self-help via your provider’s app or website; messaging options may also help you to obtain the support you need.
  • If you are working from home, make sure you follow your employer’s advice about the best ways to connect to your company’s network. Your employer will know the most effective paths and applications for you to use to connect and enjoy a hassle-free experience.
  • Parents are encouraged to check school or education department websites for tips on accessing online learning resources.
  • And, last but not least – try to be patient. Telcos and their staff are doing their very best in these difficult times.
  • If you require information in relation to COVID-19, please call the National Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you require emergency assistance from police, fire or ambulance, please call 000.

Questions about 5G?:

  • The coronavirus pandemic has, unfortunately, provided fuel for baseless conspiracy theories, urban myths and fake news, including the false claim that there is a connection between 5G mobile technologies and COVID-19.
  • On 9 April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) added the false claim of links between 5G and COVID-19 to its myth busters database of advice to the public. WHO responded to the misinformation stating clearly that ‘viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks’ rather the virus ‘is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
  • The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has responded to the recent reporting and misinformation, saying:

    There is no established evidence that low level radio wave exposure from 5G and other wireless telecommunications can affect the immune system or cause any other long term or short-term health effects'. Australia’s former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy has stated:

    ‘I’d like to reassure the community that 5G technology is safe. There is no evidence telecommunication technologies, such as 5G, cause adverse health impacts.’

  • This view has been supported by global experts, including, Prof Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, London School of HygieneTropical Medicine, who said:

    “There is no scientifically credible evidence to link the introduction of 5G masts with the COVID-19 outbreak. This would be both a physical and biological impossibility.”

  • The Australian mobile industry refutes any suggestion of a link between 5G and COVID-19 – which is impossible from a biological perspective - and notes that we have more than a decade of robust, ethical, scientific research that show no adverse health outcomes from any generation of mobile, including 5G.  Mobile networks play an important role in providing vital communications services to the community, including access to Triple Zero.

    The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has more information available on their website.

Information for Industry:

  • Telcos have worked with Government and the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission to create a protocol for the transition of the communications sector to a post-pandemic work environment, to ensure a safe work environment for employees and customers of our industry. Further information, including on the Model WFH Laws, can be found here.
  • The ACMA made decisions on regulatory relief for certain instruments during 2020 – however, all existing forbearance decisions have come to an end as of 31 December 2020. Further details are available on the ACMA’s website.
  • The ACCC outlined their revised priorities during COVID on their website in March 2020. They also provided some specific information on telecommunications services for consumers.

Important: Please note that this document is current as of July 2021 and will be updated regularly as circumstances change and new information becomes available.