Put a sock in it

commentary The Australian telecommunications industry has complained bitterly about government regulation over the past year. Telstra has whinged the loudest and the most often, switching to attack mode under the telco's new management led by chief executive Sol Trujillo.

commentary The Australian telecommunications industry has complained bitterly about government regulation over the past year.

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
Telstra has whinged the loudest and the most often, switching to attack mode under the telco's new management led by chief executive Sol Trujillo.

Trujillo and his team have spent a large part of their first year at the helm of the nation's biggest telco accusing the government of "destroying shareholder value" through unnecessary regulation.

Just this week Trujillo said his company would appeal a decision made by the national competition regulator over wholesale pricing.

"The ACCC's decision is inconsistent with the government's policy of a national uniform retail price and destroys value for Telstra shareholders," he said in a statement.

But other voices have also made themselves heard.

For example, Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan last week called for the government to force Telstra into a cooperative approach to building a national fibre broadband network.

"In nations such as Britain and France, the government is working with the incumbent telco and competitors to develop a framework which allows networks to be upgraded -- and competition to continue," he said during a speech in Melbourne.

According to O'Sullivan's sidekick, Optus regulatory affairs chief Paul Fletcher, the national regulatory regime has been unsettled for some time. "There hasn't been regulatory certainty for 10 years," he said in June.

However the time has clearly come for all parties concerned to pipe down and get on with business as usual.

Like a parent punishing petulant children, Prime Minister John Howard last week made his views clear on the matter.

"We believe the regulatory framework is now settled and we expect all companies to plan and operate within the rules that have been set," he said in a statement laying out further privatisation of Telstra.

Howard added key regulations such as price controls would not be subject to review until 2009.

The Prime Minister comments echo sentiments expressed several times over the last year by Communications Minister Helen Coonan that controversial elements of the regulatory regime would not be changed.

Last week's statement should be seen as the last word and a signal for the industry to put a sock in it for a while.

Will Telstra and others heed Howard's comments or will they continue the war of words? Drop me a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post some feedback below.

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