Telstra's newest product ... groundhogs

Summary:Bill Murray's weeks spent in the purgatory of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania -- depicted in the amusing movie Groundhog Day -- have become a cultural sounding point, mentioned in passing to describe a situation where someone is stuck in the same painful, unresolvable situation day after day.

Bill Murray's weeks spent in the purgatory of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania -- depicted in the amusing movie Groundhog Day -- have become a cultural sounding point, mentioned in passing to describe a situation where someone is stuck in the same painful, unresolvable situation day after day.

It's an apt analogy to describe the latest news that the company is actually suing the government -- telecommunications go-to person Senator Helen Coonan, to be precise -- for access to documents elucidating the process by which the Optus-Elders backed OPEL consortium was awarded nearly AU$1 billion in broadband funding.

Coonan quickly hit back, calling Telstra's court action 'sour grapes', and of course that's what it is.

Telstra has repeatedly proven sour about anything that threatens to pry away its death-grip on Australia's local loop, so legal action is hardly surprising.

If it weren't so sad. Sad, I say, because Telstra for years was seen by millions of Australians as a national asset -- a carrier owned by the people, for the people.

I know this because millions of people poured their hard-earned savings into three successively poor investment offerings that gave them a share in an ex-monopoly provider that had nowhere to go but down.

Unless, that is, it made proactive, strategic decisions to expand its business in growth markets.

You know, growing its business by offering innovative new IP-based services that would leverage its cutting-edge nationwide backbone, growing its market by extending new services to all Australians and delivering the dream into which Australian mum-and-dad investors poured their hard-earned cash.

There were so many possible directions for Telstra to head in that this downward spiral in which it has now gone -- which repeats itself every day -- has finally progressed from the bizarre to the absolutely spiteful. Watching Telstra's actions in the marketplace is like passing an accident on the highway: we hate to watch but can't turn away.

Now, the company plans to spend untold amounts of those mum-and-dad investors' dollars suing the very government that handed it the monopoly.

This is likely to be a protracted, expensive, painful and ultimately fruitless exercise whose outcome, in a best-case scenario, would be dismissal of Telstra's claims.

A worst-case scenario, however, would see the OPEL decision nullified and a completely new tendering process initiated -- and this would be the right thing to do if Telstra's allegations of procedural favouritism are proven correct.

Whatever the outcome Frankenstein's monster has truly come home to roost, taking on the very government that empowered it. But the victim this time, apart from the government that created it, is once again likely to be the Australian telecommunications market.

Surely, there must be a point when Telstra -- which carries itself with an indignant air as if it had the moral majority and the support of the entire world -- will realise that all this to-ing and fro-ing is just not getting the market anywhere.

Whatever happened to the dream? Who knows. But with the damage Telstra has done to its goodwill, the ownership and sense of shared destiny that Australian mum-and-pop investors once felt must be all but gone.

We will all welcome the day when Telstra simply gets on with the job of capitalising on the opportunities it has been handed, and doing so in a fair way. But until then, we're all stuck in Punxsutawney.

Topics: Broadband, NBN, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

About

As large as the US mainland but with a smaller population than Texas, Australia relies on ICT innovation to maintain its position as a first-world democracy and a role model for the developing Asia-Pacific region. Award-winning journalist David Braue has covered Australia’s IT and telecoms sectors since 1995 – and he’s as quick to draw le... Full Bio

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.