ACCC answers Telstra's call to kill off ISDN

After Telstra pushed the ACCC to allow regional Australia's ageing ISD and DDAS networks to expire in June this year, the regulator has given its strongest indication yet that the legacy services days are numbered

After Telstra pushed the ACCC to allow regulation of regional Australia's ageing ISD and DDAS networks to expire in June this year, the regulator has given its strongest indication yet that the legacy services' days are numbered.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced its intentions to extend the regulation of the regional integrated services digital network (ISDN) and digital data access service (DDAS) capabilities by one more year -- until 30 June 2009 -- while users seek alternative services.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel

Credit: ACCC

"The ACCC believes that both the DDAS and ISDN services are becoming outdated, legacy technologies. Since the previous review their use has declined in regional areas," said the ACCC.

"Extension of the declarations for 12 months will provide an appropriate transition period for users to migrate to alternative technologies or services in regional areas," the watchdog said.

Telstra told the ACCC that its ISDN and DDAS are "outdated technologies" with no ongoing relevance in the competitive landscape in a submission to the competition regulator late last year.

"Telstra submits that these services are simply not that important within the competitive landscape," said the telco's representatives in the document, claiming that the continuing use of both ISDN and DDAS services would harm consumers as "it would discourage the industry's migration to and investment in alternative, newer technologies, denying end-user customers of the benefits gained from more recent advancements in technology".

The submission continued: "It would impose an unreasonable burden upon Telstra as the provider of the services, by requiring it to provide continued access to legacy technologies."

At the same time, AAPT, Macquarie Telecom and Optus all lobbied to have the declaration for the service extended due to their continuing reliance on the Telstra-controlled networks to provide access to customers in rural and regional Australia.

"AAPT considers that in both outer metro and regional areas ISDN and DDAS remain essential services for data delivery at both the wholesale and retail level and that at least for the foreseeable future these services will remain bottleneck services with Telstra able to continue exercising substantial market power over supply," said AAPT representatives in their submission to the ACCC, proposing that the regulator extend the declaration for a further three years.

The competition watchdog has made a final call for comment on the draft declaration report and the draft pricing principles by 11 April, and expects to make its decision by June.

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