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Online vision for telecommunications

'Australians should find it easier and quicker to switch phone companies as a result of the telecommunications industry's decision to adopt electronic data processes,' the Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, said today.

'For more than two years, the Government has been urging the industry to replace its paper-based system of customer records with electronic data exchanges, as part of efforts to improve their internal processes. The paper-based system is less efficient and contributed to billing problems. In early 1998, the Government initiated a process for the industry to resolve many of these billing issues.

'The Government therefore warmly welcomes the Australian Communications Industry Forum and the Service Providers Industry Association for their efforts to introduce the Telecommunications Online Initiative (TOLI) system.

'Although target dates for full development and introduction of TOLI are yet to be set, the system received general industry approval today. The vision is that from the Year 2000, online interaction will progressively become the dominant, and eventually the only, means of interaction between carriers/carriage service providers.

'TOLI is particularly timely given the recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announcement of its final decision to "declare" local loop services under the telecommunications access regime.

'We can expect to see some real competitive movement on the local loop. This could inevitably lead to increasing paper flows that could be more efficiently handled by the electronic means.

'This initiative is a significant and vital step for the industry and it coincides with the wider Government vision of the information economy and e-commerce. The Government believes that use of electronic commerce systems such as TOLI will deliver major benefits to consumers, and major efficiency dividends for the industry itself.'

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