Telstra has announced a program of work to upgrade and maintain its services in regional Australia.
In a blog post, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said that while Telstra meets its Universal Services Obligation (USO) standards, some customers do have to “wait longer than they should” for services to be restored.
“I understand the frustration this can cause, particularly where there are no other options. We are therefore expanding our regional maintenance plan further to address the primary sources of regional faults so we can provide a better, more reliable service for our customers,” Penn said.
“This includes the proactive repair of cable joints, which can be a common cause of faults in the regional network, migrating customers from less reliable networks using outdated technology to more reliable networks, and the pro-active replacement of batteries in exchanges.”
Specifically, Telstra will be repairing or replacing 1,000 cable joints and some cabling on the worst-performing cables; migrating 350 customers off its old high-capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) network onto NextG Wireless Local Loop (NGWL) telephone services; and replacing around 200 batteries in exchanges and roadside cabinets where mains power failures occur frequently.
“We are also improving stock levels of equipment so our field teams can respond faster when something goes wrong,” Penn added.
Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie welcomed the announcement, saying landlines will be made more reliable in regional and rural areas.
“Landlines are a lifeline for many regional Australians, and repeat faults and long repair timeframes are just not good enough and are significant pain points for those living in regional, rural, and remote areas,” McKenzie said.
“For some, a landline service is their only connection to the outside world and can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is essential these services are reliable, and that any issues are fixed quickly.”
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said “some of the issues” outlined in the Regional Telecommunications Review will be addressed by the program, including extended faults and repair time frames.
“Many of our members have been adversely impacted by a deteriorating landline service that is often not fixed within the specified Customer Service Guarantee timeframe,” she said.
“This was recognised by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, who said in their final report that they were ‘appalled’ at some of the excessive repair times reported for landline services, which extended through weeks and even months in some cases.”
ACMA scam project terms set
The Australian government has also released the terms of reference for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) program working to reduce scam activity on telco networks.
Under the terms of reference [PDF], published on Wednesday, the ACMA will consider existing and emerging technologies that enable scams; existing, new, and emerging technology that could reduce scams; costs and benefits of potential solutions; implementation issues; timing; and international approaches.
The ACMA is also set to have regard to “the importance of communications networks for the economic and social development of all Australians”; current scam policy and regulation; international programs that are supported by governments, industry, and consumers; research on consumer concerns about scams being perpetrated over telco networks; stakeholder opinions; and the costs to consumers and industry of any solutions.
Scams being delivered over the internet, such as online dating or online shopping scams, are not within the scope of the project.
The ACMA, which is also working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the project, is set to release a discussion paper in the next few weeks. A final report is due in December.
“Scam calls are more than a nuisance. They pose a real threat, particularly to those in vulnerable circumstances such as older people,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in December, with the ACMA saying recent research found that 50 percent of adults in Australia received scam calls weekly or even daily.
Optus: NBN should face ‘real consequences for poor performance’
In its submission to the ACCC, Optus has joined Telstra, Vodafone, and Vocus in arguing that a AU$25 one-off rebate is not enough to incentivise NBN to repair faults in a timely way and stop missing connection appointments.
5G outlook: What’s to come in 2019 and beyond (TechRepublic)
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MWC 2019: Telstra and CBA partner on 5G banking trials
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Telstra to face CEPU strike on March 12
The telco’s pledge that industrial action would not impact it will be tested.
Telstra and Vodafone don’t like proposed NBN rebates system
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Telstra bringing eSIM functionality to Windows 10 devices
From March 7, users of certain Windows devices will be able to connect via eSIM to Telstra’s mobile network.
The NHTSA is opening an investigation into the Tesla Model S and Model X
The NHTSA announced this week that it was opening a preliminary investigation into potential safety concerns raised by owners of Tesla Model S and Model X cars. The agency has received 53 complaints alleging failures of the left or right front suspension fore links. Of those 43 complaints, 11 incidents occurred while driving.
In its statement issued about the investigation, the NHTSA says that the complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend with 34 complaints received in the last two years, with three of them occurring at highway speeds. The agency intends to assess the scope, frequency, and consequences of the alleged fault.
The investigation will cover Tesla Model S cars ranging from 2015 through 2017 model years and Tesla Model X SUVs made from 2016 through 2017. As these vehicles age, they could be prone to defects that didn’t surface when they were newer. As of now, there has been no official statement from Tesla on the investigation.
There is also no indication that a recall has to be issued at this time. Tesla vehicles have had their share of issues with fire potential from battery damage during accidents. Several fatal accidents have also been blamed on inattentive drivers and Tesla Autopilot driver assistance systems not recognizing hazards in the road.
On Wednesday of this week, Tesla announced that it was issuing a recall on over 9000 Model Y and Model X vehicles due to issues with bolts. The Model X also had an issue where roof trim could detach over time, leading to potential accidents or road hazards. Despite the recalls, Tesla shares are booming, having gained more than 600 percent in 2020 despite the pandemic.
Ford Bronco Sport EPA fuel economy figures published
One of the most anticipated vehicles that Ford has produced in a long time is the new 2021 Bronco and Bronco Sport. One of the key facts that many will use to decide whether or not to buy the Bronco Sport is its fuel economy ratings, and the EPA has published those. The 2021 Bronco Sport achieves a fuel economy of 25 MPG in the city, 28 MPG on the highway, and 26 MPG combined.
Those ratings are for the version of the Bronco Sport featuring the standard 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Keep in mind that the Bronco Sport comes with an all-wheel-drive standard. Those fuel economy numbers put the Bronco Sport at a disadvantage compared to some vehicles in its segment. It’s at the most significant disadvantage compared to the Toyota RAV4 AWD, which gets 27/34/30 MPG.
The Bronco Sport also returns worse fuel economy than the Honda CR-V AWD and Subaru Forrester AWD. However, the Bronco is more fuel-efficient than the Jeep Compass all-wheel. Fuel economy gets worse for the Bronco Sport when fitted with the larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
With that larger engine under the hood, the Bronco Sport achieves 21 MPG in the city, 26 MPG on the highway, and 23 MPG combined. The upside is the 2.0-liter Bronco Sport is one of the most powerful vehicles in the segment, and its fuel economy isn’t that far off from the three-cylinder version.
However, the reduced fuel economy will certainly make the Bronco Sport with the larger engine one of the least fuel-efficient vehicles in that segment. It’s also one of the most off-road capable vehicles in the segment, so it has that going for it. Many buyers will pick up the Bronco Sport for its off-road capability and style and won’t feel bad at all about its fuel economy.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 Convertible Review – Heritage only goes so far
Heritage can be a lodestar or it can be a crippling anchor holding you back, and few cars illustrate that quite so well as the Corvette. America’s homegrown sports car star has the history, sure, but it’s fair to say that in its last few generations it’s felt more “quarterback gone to seed” than all-out contender. The 2020 Corvette Stingray changes that.
Chevrolet didn’t set itself a small challenge there, either. Mid-engined for the first time, more capable of directly competing with the Porsche 911 that Corvette fans always used to say their car rivaled, and to which the rest of us politely nodded and smiled and hoped they’d change the subject. It couldn’t just be a big engine and a comparatively small price any more.
The result is a performance car that feels shaped by both demands for speed and practicality; built to a price and with hints of racing game and “show it off in the parking lot” whiz-bang gimmickry. Cold, hard pragmatism butting up against that omnipresent recognition that a Corvette has to feel like a Corvette else, really, what’s the point?
That’s a lot of directions to be pulled in, and it could’ve left the Corvette C8 a deep disappointment. The fact that it isn’t, well, that’s something of a surprise.
Style-wise, it’s one of those cars which is far more successful in person than on the screen. Sure, it feels like Chevrolet’s designers have spread their inspiration net wide, and there are some angles where the C8 is a little ungainly. The rear decklid is particularly exaggerated – though in this convertible form it hides a trick folding metal roof as well as a fairly sizable trunk – while the vents just aft of the doors look more ungainly the longer you look at them and the rear is somewhat busy. I wouldn’t have chosen “Accelerate Yellow” paint, either; the Corvette doesn’t need to do quite so much work to stand out.
Pricing kicks off at $66,400 (plus $1,095 destination) for the drop-top, though it’s hard to imagine most C8 buyers stopping there. The standard car isn’t poorly equipped, but the $11,450 3LT package upgrades the infotainment, adds a Bose audio system, a head-up display, GT2 bucket seats with heating, ventilation, and power bolsters, the Performance Data Recorder that now captures both 1080p footage from the track and everyday video of your trip to Costco. It also throws in a front curb-view camera – its view summoned with a mercifully easy to locate button – and must-haves like blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts.
I say “must haves” because rear visibility is fairly dire, and side visibility isn’t all that grand either. The rear spoiler that comes as part of the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package doesn’t help with sight-lines but it sure looks good. The rest of the package is more focused on speed, with special suspension, brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, high-performance tires, a special exhaust and rear axle ratio, and a heavy-duty cooling system.
$1,895 adds Magnetic Ride Control, and it’s an option every Corvette buyer should check off. Chevrolet’s trick dampers can adjust the viscosity of the fluid inside, crisping things up for coccyx-punishing firmness or mellowing out for long-distance cruising. It’s suspension witchcraft and more than worth the money, as is the $1,495 front lift system which can either be triggered manually or programmed to automatically raise the nose for the same tricky incline every time.
What every Corvette Stingray has at the moment is the same LT2 6.2-liter V8 engine, good for 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Z51 package nudges those up to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft, and trims the 0-60 mph time to 2.9 seconds. There’s no manual option – that’s part of Chevy’s aforementioned pragmatism, blaming traditionally low sales of stick shifts even if purists say they’re non-negotiable – only an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.
The engine’s in the middle, and it’s the rear wheels that are driven. There’s been plenty of chatter about AWD and hybrid options, but for the moment the C8 is keeping things simple. Simple and effective, mind.
It goes fast, of course. In a straight line, the Stingray leaps ahead like a beast scalded, monstrously quick and with a soundtrack to match. I’m not typically a convertible fan, but the drop-top C8 allows you to lower the rear glass window independently, letting in more of the V8 howl.
Six drive modes span inclement weather through to full-on track use, and there are all manner of traction settings to tinker with if you dig through the menus. The sluggish drive mode dial isn’t really set up for fast spinning through to take advantage of an unexpectedly rewarding road, mind; better to stab the “Z” button on the wheel, which you can preconfigure with your pick of the settings.
Speaking of the wheel, Chevrolet’s decision to fit a weirdly rectangular one with droopy-jowl spokes feels like another of those misguided gaming-inspired decisions. It’s thick-rimmed and – in 3LT form – heated, while $595 gives it a sueded microfiber wrap that’s going to one day be a time capsule of every greasy palm that gripped it. Does the shape help? Probably not.
The Corvette C8 does, at least, respond well to it. Indeed cornering is one of the Chevy’s key charms, even with some sensible understeer dialed in from the factory. There’s a predictable linearity to it, combined with a sharpness of turn-in that leaves things feeling just plain playful. Factor in ridiculous levels of grip and little in the way of body roll, and it becomes abundantly clear that this thing was tuned for fun.
The same can be said for the gearbox. Sure, it’s a little lacking in slush at low speeds, but I’ll stomach the jerkiness there in return for the snappy response to the paddles (or, if you’re feeling lazy, eager willingness to downshift when you push on in auto mode). Switch to Tour, meanwhile, and the engine/transmission/dampers combo is unexpectedly refined. This needn’t be just your weekend plaything.
There’s room for two inside, though things feel snug. Part of that is pure dimensions, and part of that is Chevrolet’s packaging. The high center console – particularly the long ski-slope of HVAC buttons cascading confusingly down between driver and passenger – could easily leave larger occupants feeling claustrophobic.
All C8’s get an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen within easy reach, and a 12-inch driver display with different gauge displays depending on which mode you’re in. It feels, frankly, light years ahead of the old Corvette, though you’ll need the 2021 model year car to get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rather than their wired counterparts.
What stands out, though, is just how much the C8 feels focused on the pleasure of actually driving. For all the new platform, and the fancier tech, and the slick hard-top convertible roof, that 6.2-liter V8 is the star here. When you’re cruising, it’s burbling happily; push harder, and it serenades you like only an eight-cylinder can, while still delivering the urgency that rivals have turned to smaller, turbocharged engines to deliver.
It’s fun that’s contagious, too. Few cars I’ve been in recently have turned so many heads, and prompted so many questions, as the Corvette C8. People love this car, and it feels like everyone has a ‘Vette story of their own to share in turn.
Factor in time for those conversations, then, and for being more watchful than you might expect in a modern vehicle. Chevy doesn’t offer adaptive cruise control, nor lane-keeping assistance, and there’s no automatic emergency braking. Rear cross-traffic alerts were added for the MY21 C8.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Verdict
Not having grown up in the US, sometimes the charms of Americana are lost on me. The old Corvette was a good example of that: I knew people loved it, I just could never quite figure out why. The good news is the Corvette C8 isn’t just playing to the home crowd.
Maybe it’s the personality it brings to the table, or the usability. Some sports cars leave you wary of their power or temperament, but like anything with a Chevrolet badge on the hood, the Corvette doesn’t demand blood sacrifice in order to get the job done.
Value is subjective, of course. No, this particular $93,660 Corvette isn’t cheap but, given the sort of cars it competes so strongly with, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t punch above its weight. I’d keep the Z51 package and the MagneRide, and maybe compromise on the 2LT trim to keep the overall sticker down, but even if you maxed it out and made the dealer’s day you’re still well under the 911 and even McLaren Sport Series I think the ‘Vette can spar with.
History, and heritage, can be great. At their best they set expectations, just as long as you avoid falling into the same old ruts as before. While what’s new about the Corvette C8 is special, then, it’s how Chevrolet maintains its old values like attainability and everyday usability that really makes this car shine.
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