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Canberra flags wholesale benchmarks for NBN and infrastructure providers in 2020

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Image: NBN

The Australian government has released the second tranche of its consumer safeguards review, following its first release a year prior.

In the Consumer Safeguards Review Part B report which is aimed at the Australian broadband market, once main construction on the National Broadband Network (NBN) is complete next year, the Department of Communications states fixed line infrastructure providers of last resort may not face consistent competition.

“Regulated wholesale timeframes for connections, fault repairs and appointment keeping matters are therefore appropriate,” it states.

As such, the report says mandatory rules for wholesale connection, fault repair, and appointment keeping should be introduced in 2020, and should be written to accommodate the high number of premises that will need to be switched to the NBN until 2022.

The rules would allow for “issues of geographic remoteness and provide for reasonable industry travel time”, as well as provide an exemption once a set of clearly defined criteria are met.

For retailers, the report called for them to inform customers, at a minimum, of timeframes for connections and fault repairs, as well as remedies, as part of efforts to increase transparency. Retailers would also have to “clearly state” what any remedies such as credit, rebates, contract exit arrangements, or backup services are.

The report did not call for backup services to be mandated however, after a number of telcos pointed out that retailers with mobile networks would be advantaged.

Both wholesalers and retailers were called on to keep records of how they tracked against service commitments, while the report recommended for Telstra to face less onerous reporting obligations as it noted the Network Reliability Framework applies to copper-based voice connections.

See also: NBN seeing over 500,000 service faults annually from 5.5 million connections

The exact details of the recommendations are up in the air, as the department said it would work with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Australian Communications and Media Authority to make sure there are no duplications of standing arrangements.

“The consumer safeguards we have in place today have been in place for more than 20 years and are highly prescriptive,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

“As Australia’s telecommunications environment continues to change, and with the National Broadband Network rollout finishing next year, now is the right time to modernise the consumer protection framework.”

In response to the report, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said further effort would be needed to protect consumers from unreliable telco services.

“Having a clear framework that makes it easy to understand when consumers can expect issues with their phone or internet service to be fixed is an important first step,” ACCAN director of policy Una Lawrence said.

“However, more needs to be done to recognise the impact of unreliable telco services on consumers. If you are waiting for a technician or tradesperson to come to your house to fix an issue and they miss the scheduled appointment, you should be automatically compensated for your time.”

The report eschewed from automated compensation, stating it worked well in cases of a single point and party of failure, but otherwise could introduce administrative complexity and blame-shifting.

“In the case of telecommunications faults where the source of an issue may not immediately have an easily identifiable root cause, mandatory compensation arrangements may actually compound consumer issues by encouraging ‘buck passing’ and internal industry debates around liability, rather than encouraging a focus on resolving the issue,” the report said.

See also: The ACCC is going to need a standard speed measurement for one ADSL2+

Telco industry group, Communications Alliance, said the report struck the right balance.

“The move away from some elements of the initial Part B proposals removes some potentially anticompetitive outcomes, which had caused concern within industry and could have stifled innovation and created increased costs for consumers,” Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton said.

“We are reviewing and considering the detailed recommendations in the report, but support the approach, including that outdated regulation should be removed, implementation should actively avoid the risk of duplicative regulation, and competition will bring the most benefit to consumers.”

From February, the Department of Communications will find itself rehomed as part of the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications.

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This Brand Makes The Worst Android Phones, According To 27% Of People We Polled

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Most respondents who participated in our poll seem to earnestly believe that Xiaomi makes the worst Android phones out there. More than 27% of the polled users think Xiaomi deserves this particular crown. On the face of it, the poll results seem grossly unfair towards Xiaomi, given that the company doesn’t even sell its phones to U.S. consumers. There is no denying, however, that Xiaomi needs to do a lot to change its brand perception in the U.S. if they ever plan on releasing smartphones in North America (again, that is).

With more than 21% of the votes, a virtually unknown smartphone brand for U.S. consumers comes in second place. The brand in question here is Realme — a sub-brand owned by OPPO. Realme is a very popular smartphone brand in Asia and is known mainly for its value-for-money devices that usually compete against similarly priced alternatives from Xiaomi.

Another smartphone brand that is in desperate need of a brand overhaul is Google. More than 18% of polled people thought Google makes the worst Android phones. That’s a lot of brickbats for a company behind the software that powers Android phones. The less favorable opinion seems to stem from a long list of issues that troubled the Google Pixel lineup.

Samsung and OnePlus find themselves in the last two places on this list with 17.23% and 15.54% of the votes, respectively. It could be that the other brands are simply less popular in the minds of U.S. citizens, or it could be that Samsung and OnePlus really and truly make the best Android phones — what do you think?

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Lincoln Model L100 Concept Is Hyper-Luxury Electrification With Wild Doors And A Disco Floor

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Certainly, the exterior of the Model L100 Concept is memorable. Lincoln describes it as “the tension between exuberant elegance and subtle restraint,” and it’s clear that aerodynamics have played a big role in deciding the overall silhouette. We’ve seen how that chase for slipperiness through the air can lead to electric cars looking like relatively amorphous blobs, though that’s something Lincoln manages to avoid.

Instead, it plays with light, glass, and scale. The Model L100 Concept hunkers low to the ground, with a glass panoramic roof and reverse-hinged doors to add drama as well as make entering and exiting more straightforward. Sensors track the owner’s approach, meanwhile, with the promise of a curated light show both outside and inside. Then, the doors — which extend all the way back to the rear bumper — gape outward, while the entire glass roof section lifts up.

The concept is finished with a satin digital ceramic tricot metallic paint, shifting between cool blue and soft white. Instead of the traditional chrome, frosted acrylic has been used as a more sustainable alternative. The whole floor of the cabin, meanwhile, is one big digital panel capable of showing shifting graphics, colors, and patterns. 

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Here’s How Drones Could Change The Medical Industry

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UKRI’s program also has major implications for the medical industry in particular, both in terms of its future sustainability as well as efficiency. University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) Director Phil Woodford told BBC the Future Flight Challenge could help reduce traffic, pollution, and transport sensitive medical supplies, all at the same time. The project’s first phase will start with drones traveling between the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Wesmorland, and Furness General Hospitals in Cumbria, using a dedicated 250ft airspace. Based on routes in Google Maps, the average driving distance of such trips more or less range from 20 to 40 miles.

The thing is, current means of delivering medical samples in Lancashire involves traveling to different hospitals several times a day using vans, taxis and motorcycles. Compared to such rudimentary means of travel, which Woodford said takes an hour or more depending on traffic, using medical drones are said to shorten the overall trip to just 15 minutes. Woodford argued that medical drone deliveries can make the process faster, safer, and doesn’t put unnecessary load on drivers and the environment. While drones have proven to be quite handy in space, properly integrating them on Earth’s busier air space is another story. Fortunately, the project is building a roadmap to tackle just that.

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