Telstra will be forced to keep meticulous records on activities in its telephone exchanges, according to new regulations designed to alleviate complaints by other telcos.
The Croydon (Vic) exchange area
Rivals of the nation's largest telco have complained for years about long delays to access the exchanges and Telstra's move to limit (cap) how much hardware can be installed. The other companies need access to install their own hardware, particularly DSL multiplexers (DSLAMs), which provide broadband services.
"The ACCC believes that there is a strong need for independent oversight of Telstra's processes to cap exchanges to ensure that Telstra is held accountable and access seekers are not unreasonably denied access to Telstra exchanges," said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel in a statement today.
"There is also a clear need to identify the exact cause of delays with Telstra's queuing system," he added.
Under the regulator's new rules, Telstra will have to keep records and monthly reports on its exchanges and outline the details of capping decisions and how much space is reserved by the telco for its own future requirements.
Telstra will also have to provide information on the length of queues to enter an exchange, including which companies are seeking access, where they stand in the line and how they are progressing.
The decision will help throw some light on the "keys to the exchange" argument, according to an ACCC spokesperson, and will help the regulator do its job.
"The record keeping rule will assist the ACCC in carrying out its statutory functions under the access regime in the Trade Practices Act and provide confidence to access seekers investing in competitive DSLAM infrastructure about the accuracy of Telstra's processes," Samuel said.
But Telstra said the rule will be time-consuming and expensive without helping consumers.
"The ACCC is over-reaching its powers again where no problems exist," a spokesperson for the telco said in a statement, adding that the company had already made changes itself to provide access seekers with more information on capped exchanges.
The capped exchanges won't be fixed by record-keeping, the spokesperson continued, because it was a symptom of the high demand for space in the exchanges which has been brought on by the ACCC's low pricing of the unbundled local loop and line-sharing services through which rivals use Telstra's copper.
"Sometimes there may be delays — just like there would be at a David Jones fire sale. Any delays are not deliberate and this process won't fix them."
The best thing would be to get on with the national fibre-to-the-node broadband network and stop "mucking around" with the DSL technology, according to Telstra, which in its NBN regulatory submission said it didn't want the new fibre network to have to coexist with the existing ADSL2+ network.