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Telecommunication poverty an issue: report

AAP logoAAP 3/11/2016

People on low incomes are struggling to afford the communication services they need to look for work and access government services, a report has found.

The report is based on a survey of 500 low-income earners and Centrelink recipients, which found 62 per cent had struggled to pay telecommunications services, such as mobile phone bills and internet expenses, over the past year.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network commissioned the South Australian Council of Social Service research, which says a "digital divide" is leading low income earners to miss out on life opportunities.

"This telecommunication poverty threatens to exclude them not only from social networks, but also from job and education opportunities, and government support services and commercial transactions," the report said.

"It threatens to compound their existing levels of disadvantage and leave them further behind both economically and socially."

The report has recommended reforming the Centrelink Telephone Allowance, the current government support to help low income consumers stay connected.

It also recommends phone and internet providers offer better data options for low cost plans, allow a choice of payment methods for every kind of plan and review their hardship assistance programs.

"Those on low-incomes are often paying more for services than other customers," SACOSS chief executive Ross Womersley said in a statement.

"The income support they receive is not adequate to ensure they stay connected, and many of the available products and plans on the market are not suitable for those on low-incomes."

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