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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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A longer Land Rover Defender called the 130 is coming

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The Land Rover Defender returned to the US in recent months and has proven to be a popular SUV for many buyers. Currently, the vehicle can be had in two-door and a longer four-door version known as the Defender 110. Many buyers have been clamoring for something with more space in the third row, and Land Rover is set to deliver.

A new Defender 130 is on the way, according to a recent report. The 130 will have 14 extra inches of body, giving it a much more usable third-row seat. The optional third row in the 110 is only fit for smaller children. The longer Defender could mean a third row suitable for actual adults.

The 130 will be targeted at buyers in the US, China, and the Middle East. The chassis for the 130 will be the same with the same wheelbase as the Defender 110. However, the vehicle will have an overall length of 201 inches. While more space inside the Defender 130 is exciting, even more exciting was the recent announcement of a new V-8 engine option for the Defender in 2022.

Land Rover is offering a supercharged V-8 engine under the hood. The downside to putting the V-8 engine in the vehicle is that the price jumps up significantly. For 2022 the Defender 90 V-8 (pictured) starts at $97,200, with the Defender 110 V-8 starting at $100,400.

No matter which version you purchase, they get the same 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 518 horsepower and 461 pound-foot of torque. Land Rover says the Defender 90 V8 will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and 149 mph given enough road. Both six-cylinder and four-cylinder engines remain options.

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Ford issues a recall on a small number of delivered Mustang Mach-E EVs

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Ford has announced that it is issuing a safety recall on some of its Mustang Mach-E EVs delivered to customers. Ford says the recall impacts fewer than 75 customers who have already taken delivery of their electric vehicles. Ford says that during checks it performs to deliver high levels of quality and customer satisfaction, it discovered some of the vehicles could have subframe bolts that a supplier did not tighten to specification.

Ford says that the issue means impacted vehicles don’t meet its standards, but it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the condition. Ford says that 94 percent of the 1258 total impacted vehicles in the US and 90 in Canada will be serviced before they are delivered to customers. Dealers are inspecting subframe bolts and will tighten them as necessary.

For the 75 owners who have taken delivery of their vehicles, notifications will begin going out to them the week of March 22. Ford has given the recall reference number 21S09. The Mustang Mach-E is a very important vehicle for Ford. As its first real entry into the fully electric vehicle market, it’s critical that the vehicle is successful and delivers high-quality for buyers.

This recall isn’t the first issue that Ford has had with the Mach-E. In January, the automaker confirmed that it was delaying the delivery of hundreds of vehicles while it performed additional quality checks. Exactly what those quality checks were looking at is unknown. The automaker delivered a small number of Mach-Es late in 2020, and speculation was that owners had discovered some issues that needed to be addressed.

Ford seems to have learned a valuable lesson in launching high-profile vehicles with significant issues from the get-go. The automaker launched the all-new Explorer and took a beating over substantial problems with many of the cars.

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This Bugatti Divo Lady Bug’s geometric paint job is truly one-of-a-kind

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The Bugatti Divo is a Chiron for the racetrack, but this Lady Bug version with its diamond-shaped fading patterns is best appreciated while the car is stationary. As if the Divo is not outrageous enough, one lucky customer in America wants to push the boundaries further. And as expected, Bugatti pulled it off, although it took quite a while to iron the challenges of creating an exclusive, one-off Lady Bug paint job.

“Every Bugatti Divo is one of a kind. With the custom-made ‘Lady Bug,’ Bugatti has demonstrated the full range of its customization expertise,” said Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. The car really demonstrates what the marque is capable of in terms of creativity and craftsmanship.”

Creating Lady Bug’s geometric-dynamic algorithmic fading pattern seems easy on paper. Given the Divo’s three-dimensional sculpted body, the 2D digital patterns became distorted upon application to the car’s body, which is not good enough if you’re paying upwards of $5-million for a track-ready version of the Bugatti Chiron.

“The Lady Bug was an exceptional challenge and, at the same time, an unforgettable experience. Due to the nature of the project, where a 2D graphic was applied to a 3D sculpture, we were close to giving up,” said Jörg Grumer, Head of Color & Trim at Bugatti Design. “However, it is our profound conviction that we should never give up and that our foremost motivation should always be to make the impossible possible for the customer.”

The entire project took two years to complete as Bugatti CAD modelers simulated and created a diamond pattern design with around 1,600 individual diamonds in six-meter long transfer films. Each diamond (yes, all 1,600 of them) is checked and realigned in the body to rule out any distortions.

The designers spent countless hours rehearsing the application procedure on two test vehicles before the moment of truth.

“Every maneuver had to be exactly right in this painstaking task; therefore, we decided to do another rehearsal before the final stage of work. Because there could only be one attempt on the customer’s car, and that had to be perfect,” said Dirk Hinze, an expert in customization and surfaces at Bugatti.

The final step is applying the paint finish before painstakingly peeling away each diamond. The base color, Customer Special Red, is contrasted with graphite and clear coat to invert the pattern. According to Bugatti, it took the paintwork artist two weeks to sand, smooth, check, retouch, and re-sand every millimeter of the body surface.

The result is a one-of-a-kind Bugatti Divo Lady Bug, the only one in existence. It has a standard 8.0-liter W16 engine pumping out 1,479 horsepower. Since the Divo weighs less and has more downforce than a regular Chiron, it goes around the Nardo handling circuit a full eight seconds faster than the former.

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