Community matches $40K USO donation from local business

The Beaches Fund is a group of 30 local families, including the Ullmanns, who perform philanthropy solely at the Beaches between Mayport and St.
By Shaun Ryan

Ullmann Wealth Partners and the Ullmann Advised Fund has donated $40,000 to the USO Jacksonville to expand the services offered through its Healthy Military Families Initiative.

The donation was a match for funds raised by the USO from various donors in the community.

“We are pleased to support the USO and our military families,” said company president and financial adviser Glenn Ullmann. “This match demonstrates the big impact small business owners and individuals can have to help those military families in need in our local community.”

Ullmann said his wife, Lisa, suggested he find out more about the USO after returning from a Beaches Fund tour that included the charitable organization. The Beaches Fund is a group of 30 local families, including the Ullmanns, who perform philanthropy solely at the Beaches between Mayport and St. Augustine. In the last four years, the group has given away about $1.1 million to address housing, food and transportation issues that challenge those in need.

The USO, which receives no federal funding, started the Healthy Military Families Initiative in 2018 to provide the young families of active duty personnel with critical resources, such as food, diapers and baby formula.

Ullmann recalled that in the early 1980s when he was a junior officer in the U.S. Air Force, the enlisted personnel were always on food stamps.

“Now, fast-forward 40 years, and guess what?” he said. “They’re still on the poverty line.”

He pointed out that COVID-19 has made the situation worse. Where the non-military spouse might have been employed before, the second income has often gone away as the pandemic impacted local businesses.

He asked USO representatives what they needed, and they said they would like to hire a full-time operations person to help run the food bank. The obstacle: It would cost about $80,000 a year.

So, Ullmann offered to donate $40,000 a year for two years if the USO could raise the rest. And people responded.

A successful business owner who married into a family with a notable philanthropic history – Lisa Ullmann’s father was Henri Landwirth, the man who founded Give Kids The World and Dignity U Wear – Ullman said anyone can be a philanthropist.

“Even if you are putting money into the Salvation Army pot, that’s philanthropy,” he said. “If you are giving to the Red Cross when there’s a hurricane, that’s philanthropy. It doesn’t have to have $10 million behind it. There’s a lot that businesses can do.”

He suggested that people seeking a place to start should contact The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Those interested in doing some charitable giving specific to the Beaches can contact The Beaches Fund. In fact, Ullmann said people looking to help can call him at his business.

For further information, go to the Community Foundation’s website at jaxcf.org.

The future of connectivity in the bush

Lyndall Stoyles is Telstra’s Group General Counsel and Group Executive Sustainability, External Affairs and Legal. In addition to providing legal counsel …

With the initial rollout of the nbn network largely complete, and the vast majority of people now relying on the nbn for their connectivity, it makes sense to be looking at the best way of providing phone services in the bush.

Since we began providing phone services to Australian homes and businesses 140 years ago, we have faced the challenge of getting reliable services to our customers wherever they choose to live, learn and work. That challenge lies at the heart of our Universal Service Obligation (USO), which ensures standard telephone services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis.

Telstra is a key partner of regional Australia – we invest more than any other provider to grow and improve our mobile networks and we’re the largest contributor to the USO. As a result, we’re often asked for our view on the future of the USO given the nbn rollout, and that position hasn’t changed:

  • as we get close to completion of the nbn rollout, it makes sense to review the USO to determine how it can be delivered efficiently using the mix of technologies now available and providing a good experience for consumers;
  • Government and Regulatory policy should encourage a technology-agnostic approach; and
  • no change should be made unless customers receive the same or an improved level of service.

For most of our 140-year history we have mainly used copper landlines to connect people. Today, with over 90 percent of homes and businesses now having access to the fixed nbn, we now use the nbn to meet the USO for most people.

For a small proportion of the population where it hasn’t been practical to use solely copper to connect people, mainly in remote areas, we have used a mix of copper, radio and satellite. It’s largely in these same areas the nbn is using fixed wireless or satellite to provide a connection. While these technologies are capable of delivering broadband, to date we have not been able to use them to provide stand-alone phone services.

As a result, the challenge of getting reliable services to the bush continues.

One of the Government’s key principles in rolling out the nbn has been to use the technology best matched to each area of Australia to ensure it is delivered quickly and cost effectively. Our view is that the same principle should be used as we think through how to best meet the USO, using a mix of the latest technologies to deliver customers a better and more reliable service than they get now.

That should be our starting point.

If you consider all of the investments currently going into improving connectivity services in rural and remote Australia: the USO (around $270m annually, of which about half comes from Telstra); nbn co’s investment in its satellite and fixed wireless services; and co-funding improvements to mobile coverage from the Federal and state governments, we see an opportunity for the governments to create a more holistic and integrated solution to deliver a technology mix that works for consumers.

Our approach needs to be flexible with the customer experience front of mind and we shouldn’t be mandating one technology over another. We also need to ensure that as any changes occur we bring the people in the bush along with us to minimise any anxiety or concern with the new technology.

Lyft Reaches $1 Million in Donations to the USO Through Round Up & Donate

Lyft and the USO are celebrating the tremendous feat of Lyft passengers raising $1 million for the USO through Lyft’s Round Up & Donate platform.

By Danielle DeSimone

Since World War II, the USO’s mission has always been to serve the men and women in the U.S. military, and their families, throughout their time in uniform. As a nonprofit organization that is not part of the federal government, the USO relies on the generosity of patriotic Americans and corporations to support our programs, services and worldwide network of volunteers to get the job done.

That is why the USO is proud to partner with companies such as Lyft, the fastest-growing ride sharing company in the country that is dedicated to ““improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation” through its Round Up & Donate in-app donation product. By opting in to Round Up & Donate, Lyft riders can choose a cause they care about and from then on, Lyft will automatically round up each fare from their rides, donating the difference to the charity of their choice. The USO is one of Lyft’s chosen charities, which has brought in incredible contributions from Lyft riders around the country.

As of this month, Lyft riders have officially raised over $1 million for the USO through Round Up & Donate, supporting service members and their families throughout the world. These donations go towards USO programs and services, which are designed to keep our men and women in uniform connected to family, home and country, through toiletry and snack care packages sent to the front lines, support programs for military spouses, events for children whose parents are deployed and much more.

“We’re so excited to share that Lyft passengers have donated over $1 million to USO through our Round Up & Donate tool,” said Mike Masserman, head of social impact at Lyft. “These donations support USO programming offered at more than 200 locations around the globe and help to keep service members connected to family, home and country.”

Lyft’s support of the USO and our nation’s military has also extended to assisting service members and Lyft’s military veteran drivers in their transition from the military to civilian life. Lyft has also supported USO events such as the recent World’s Biggest USO Tour, during which Lyft provided discounted rides for service members and their families traveling to and from the first-of-its-kind event.

This holiday season, continue to be a Force Behind the Forces℠ with the USO by riding with Lyft and giving a gift to the USO by opting in to Round Up & Donate. To find out how you can participate in Lyft’s Round Up & Donate in support of the USO and our service members, click here.

Telstra’s USO phone services fall 22 percent

Telstra has seen the number of fixed-line phone services it provides under the universal service obligation fall by 22 percent since 2012. The number was revealed by the government at the end of last week as part of a stoush over the amount of money Telstra receives under its 20-year USO deal.

Telstra has seen the number of fixed-line phone services it provides under the universal service obligation fall by 22 percent since 2012.

The number was revealed by the government at the end of last week as part of a stoush over the amount of money Telstra receives under its 20-year USO deal.

Though the USO funding has been a contentious topic for many years, the issue was thrust back into the spotlight when Vodafone claimed “government figures show that Telstra has already shut down around half of the copper and payphone services it is supposed to maintain” under the scheme.

Vodafone said it was “concerned” that USO payments to Telstra were “excessive relative to the service that Telstra has been contracted to perform”.

“Telstra appears to be generating a profit at the expense of taxpayers and USO levy payers” including Vodafone, it said, arguing that some of the money should be redistributed into mobile network expansion.

Telstra has already branded the claim that it services 50 percent less services under the USO an “untruth”.

“This is simply incorrect, and no substantiation has ever been provided in support of the statement,” Telstra said earlier this month.

The government, through the Department of Communications, has also decided to weigh in on the issue.

It partially confirmed Vodafone’s point that Telstra continues to receive the full $297 million a year under the USO, regardless of the number of services it has responsibility for.

“There has been a decline in the number of USO services,” the government said.

“We estimate the reductions since the [revised USO] commenced on 1 July 2012 to be a 22 percent fall in Telstra’s fixed line retail standard telephone services and a 9 percent fall in payphones.

“The basis for Vodafone’s claim that services provided … have halved is not clear.”

Vodafone is continuing to back its 50 percent reduction claim, which relies on figures sourced from a 2011 consultancy report to the ACCC, as well as quarterly numbers submitted to the ACCC under record keeping rules.

It has, however, said that “there is insufficient information publicly available to precisely correlate” the numbers it has used, though it says “there is likely to be a substantial correlation”.

In a statement to iTnews earlier this month, Vodafone’s chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd reiterated that the ACCC figures “appears to be the best information publicly available”.

“If Telstra disagrees, we encourage them to publish data about exactly how, where and when it spends the USO funding,” Lloyd said.

“We find it very curious that Telstra is so secretive about this. If they’ve got nothing to hide, surely it would be in Telstra’s best interests to open its books.”

For its part, the government appeared largely unconcerned about the USO funding not being aligned to the number of services being provided.

“It is worth noting that the payment … is declining in real terms each year,” the department said.

In any event, “the funding pays for the delivery of a national solution for voice and payphone services”, the department noted.

“The payment is not calculated on a per premises or per payphones basis.”

The days of the current USO arrangement may be numbered, with the government late last year declaring its intention to replace the USO with a new universal service guarantee (USG) that would kick in sometime after the NBN rollout is complete in 2020.

Telstra has suggested it is open to reform of the arrangement, though it would not settle for any deal that would see it financially worse off, given the current USO deal runs through to the end of 2032.

Katter tells government not to hang up on north Queensland

Telstra estimates there are more than 600,000 homes, farms, businesses and indigenous communities across Australia where it is simply not commercially … The Government’s $270 million a year Universal Service Obligation (USO) contract with Telstra will end after 2020 when the National Broadband …

Telstra estimates there are more than 600,000 homes, farms, businesses and indigenous communities across Australia where it is simply not commercially viable to deliver communications services and the USO provided a critical service.