Telstra 'loses game of chicken' on ADSL2+ rollout

Summary:Telstra has officially switched on over 900 ADSL2+ exchanges, amid allegations of spin by the telco over its decision to back down on the issue of regulation.

Telstra has officially switched on over 900 ADSL2+ exchanges, amid allegations of spin by the telco over its decision to back down on the issue of regulation.

Some 370 exchanges will be switched on within seven working days, with some locations including Alice Springs getting the speed bump within the next two days.

Another 132 exchanges, including some in Camperdown, Victoria and Loxton, SA, will be ADSL2+ enabled in three weeks, followed by an additional 405 within 200 days, according to the telco.

BigPond users in newly ADSL2+ enabled areas will need to move to more expensive plans to access the higher speed services, which will see up to 2.4 million users now able to access broadband speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 20Mbps.

While the exchanges have been ADSL2+ enabled for some time, Telstra had been holding off on flicking the switch due to regulatory concerns: the telco had not green-lighted DSLAMs in areas where no competitor operated in case the competition regulator mandated it allow rivals to resell those services.

Telstra said it had been given assurances from the government that "it did not consider a compelling case had been made for regulating third-party access" in the newly switched-on areas, after it received a letter on the subject from Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy. Telstra's CEO Sol Trujillo added in a statement that the telco welcomed the government's "regulatory forbearance".

However, the letter in question does not appear to mark any change in government policy, as Telstra has implied.

Conroy's letter says the regulation of the services is not a matter for the government and that he has checked with the ACCC for their position on the matter.

"Mr Samuel [head of the ACCC] has advised: The ACCC has previously indicated that a compelling case has not been made for declaring and regulating third party access to a wholesale xDSL service (including ADSL and ADSL2+ services) ... Mr Samuel has informed me that this position has been reiterated publicly on several occasions", the letter reads.

It continues: "Given the consistency of the ACCC's statements on this matter, I believe there is a high degree of regulatory certainty in relation to the ACCC's approach to wholesale ADSL2+ services ... I would welcome a decision by Telstra to switch on ADSL2+ services in as many exchange areas as possible."

Telstra could not immediately be reached for comment.

David Forman, CEO of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, said Telstra's decision to enable ADSL2+ was an attempt by the telco to rebuild its relationship with the government ahead of its planned rollout of fibre-to-the-node.

"There's been no change in position from the government or regulator ... what there has been is Telstra giving up a point of blackmail. This is the second example of games of chicken [the first being CDMA] with the government and this is [Telstra] realising the government is not going to give way," he said.

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government : AU, Microsoft, Telstra

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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