ACCC frames telco regulatory reviews

The national competition regulator today released a position paper detailing what it described as a "robust framework" for reviewing existing and guiding future telecommunications regulation of fixed network services. The topic of regulation in the fixed-line area is currently a contentious one for the telecommunications industry, due to the ongoing struggle between Telstra and a group of its rivals known as the G9 over which party will build a new national fibre broadband network.

The national competition regulator today released a position paper detailing what it described as a "robust framework" for reviewing existing and guiding future telecommunications regulation of fixed network services.

The topic of regulation in the fixed-line area is currently a contentious one for the telecommunications industry, due to the ongoing struggle between Telstra and a group of its rivals known as the G9 over which party will build a new national fibre broadband network.

The Australian Labor Party has made an election promise to remove regulatory roadblocks to such a network, while Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan is currently talking to both parties.

Releasing the paper, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Graeme Samuel, said it was the regulator's view that regulation should be targeted at "enduring bottlenecks" in fixed-line markets, and removed where it was not required to promote the long-term interests of users.

"This is based on the ACCC's view that efficient competition between operators that invest in their own infrastructure is more likely to promote outcomes akin to those found in more competitive markets, as rivals have a greater ability to differentiate service offerings and control their own supply chain," the ACCC boss said in a statement.

"In regions where infrastructure-based competition is unlikely to emerge, the ACCC will consider whether regulation of an end-to-end wholesale service is required, while recognising that there may be more effective regulatory tools to apply."

Samuel said a key element of the framework was the regulator's approach to geographically delineating markets.

"To this end, in March 2007, the ACCC proposed to industry a more systematic collection of empirical information on existing telecommunications infrastructure to inform future analysis about the state of competition in particular regions," the regulator's statement said.

The paper also marks the beginning of the ACCC's inquiry into the regulation of the Line Sharing Service (LSS) -- a service provided by Telstra that allows Internet service providers to sell ADSL broadband over its copper network.

The ACCC is inviting public submissions to the LSS review and the review framework in general. The position paper is available online, as part of the regulator's ongoing review into fixed services.

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