New ruling to guarantee Telstra's services post privatisation

The federal government has introduced new rules to ensure Telstra maintains its presence in rural areas after it is fully privatised.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan said a new condition will be added to Telstra's operating licence to ensure it continues serving the bush after the government sells its remaining shareholding in the telco.

Telstra will have to draw up a local presence plan outlining how it intends to keep serving rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

As part of the plan Telstra will meet with customers before presenting it to the minister.

"This is about giving rural and regional Australia certainty and confidence that regardless of who owns Telstra, there will be a visible and effective Telstra presence in rural and regional Australia," she said.

Senator Coonan said the new rule was being introduced in response to recommendations from the Estens inquiry into Telstra's services in the bush.

Opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy branded the new licence condition a stunt that would do nothing to improve services in the bush.

"It's a real fraud on many, many people who have been crying out for improved services," he told reporters.

A Telstra spokesman said the telco would continue to comply with all the conditions set out in its operating licence and would spend the next few weeks working on the new rule.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie met with Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo yesterday.

The Premier threatened to hand his government's telecommunications business to another carrier unless Telstra's mobile phone services improve.

He said the government is prepared to use its buying power to ensure quality services for Queenslanders.

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