Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud has accused Telstra of abandoning regional Australia. 

Mr Littleproud has slammed Telstra’s regional services, saying they are suffering under a lack of investment that is “putting lives at risk”.

“They’ve given up on the bush and they put profits ahead of people,” Mr Littleproud said.

“There needs to be wholesale reform, not just about landlines, but also their mobile phone telecommunications.

“They're given $270 million a year to maintain our landlines, and they're not being maintained.”

Mr Littleproud referred to Telstra’s Universal Service Guarantee (USG), which requires the company to deliver a baseline level of telecommunications services regardless of a person’s location. The measure was put in place when the formerly government-owned Telecom was privatised. 

The Deputy Nationals leader said the USG should be updated, as it does not take into account the new generation of mobile technology being used across the country.

“Let's use some common sense and extend it to the mobile network, to protect that infrastructure as well into the future to protect telecommunications in the bush,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The Australian taxpayer has put a lot of money into mobile phone infrastructure, and now we need the regulation to make sure that everyone is maintaining it — not just the taxpayer, but the telcos as well.”

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn has labelled the accusations “offensive”, branding Mr Littleproud as “all hat and no cattle.”

“Quite frankly, I find Mr Littleproud’s comments offensive,” he told the ABC.

“Nobody does more in the bush than Telstra from a telecommunications perspective — we've invested more than $20 billion since 2005.”

The Telstra CEO said discussions about updating the USG have been occurring since 2015.

“[The USG] needs to become technology agnostic because, currently, we're required to provide that service using copper,” he said.

“Copper has been a great old warhorse, but it's a bit like a 1960's Holden — it's getting to the end of its life, it's going to break down more and it's going to be harder to find spare parts.”

Mr Penn said Mr Littleproud should quiet down while negotiations continue.

He conceded that repair delays are an issue, but said Telstra’s network coverage of 2.5 million square kilometres is a major part of this challenge. 

“We do our best to fix it and to maintain it and get on top of it - I'll be the first to accept we don't always get it right,” Mr Penn said.