Telstra may not allow government to call its lawyers

Telstra may not allow government to call its lawyers

Summary: The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a tender for the provision of substantial legal assistance ahead of the rollout of the national fibre-to-the-node network, but it may have a hard time finding a taker.

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The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a tender for substantial legal assistance ahead of the rollout of the national fibre-to-the-node network, but it may have a hard time finding a taker.

The Department is seeking a vendor to provide comprehensive legal support leading up to the rollout of the network, and is offering a 12 month contract to employ the services of a suitable law firm.

Documents attached to the tender state that the Department is seeking legal services from an organisation with "significant experience" in communications law, infrastructure projects, administrative law, construction law, complex litigation and dispute resolution.

Mark Ganz, senior industry analyst at research firm IBISWorld, believes that competition for the tender will be confined to Australia's six "top tier" law firms, an elite group including Freehills, Clayton Utz and Mallesons.

Ganz told ZDNet Australia that only the top tier firms have the resources to cover all of the legal areas associated with the rollout effectively, saying given their size and prestige, such firms can provide a "one stop shop" for matters associated with the project.

The government needs to get everything right because there's so many things that could go wrong

Mark Ganz, IBISWorld

"They'll probably provide extensive scenario analysis," said Ganz, who added that issues surrounding sub-loop unbundling -- a form of unbundling where the local loop is handed over by Telstra to other operators outside of a telephone exchange -- could cause the first legal storms to brew.

"There's no precedent for what would take place if the government allowed that particular change to go through ... so they need to make sure that the legal basis for this is sound, otherwise it could shelve all of their plans," he said.

Telecommunications expert Paul Budde has anticipated a looming legal battle between Telstra and the government ahead of the rollout, and suggested today that the government may have a hard time finding a top tier firm not already engaged with the telco, opening up potential conflicts of interest.

"It would almost definitely exclude several firms who work closely with Telstra," said Budde.

"Because Telstra has taken such a hard line approach towards the government and potential changes to regulation it will be very difficult for a firm closely associated with them to work on what is an extremely sensitive policy area with the government," he said.

IBISWorld's Ganz agreed that this is a possibility, but maintained that there are "ways around it" for any firm with ties to Telstra to also work with the Department.

"Most of the these firms have 10 or 15 partners in their communications law arms, if the government's chosen firm also had people working with Telstra you'd find they'd be separated, but that potential for conflict of interest is there," said Ganz.

"As far as legal matters go the government needs to get everything right because there's so many things that could go wrong."

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government AU, Legal, Telcos, Optus, Telstra, NBN

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Talkback

8 comments
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  • Yawn

    "If monopoly is a concern Telstra is prepared to supply access for opponents to the FTTN at a fair and reasonable price."

    Define "fair and reasonable". Both of those terms have a different meaning with Telstra.

    You may as well stop wasting your time Sydney - Telstra aren't going to build this network and they won't get any support from the Government. Telstra have no one to blame but themselves.
    anonymous
  • Free Telstra?

    It's interesting to hear the Telstra view straight from the horse's mouth, but let's get real:

    "Telstra will provide honest and fierce competition to competitors" - there won't be any competitors in that case, because it would be a repeat of the HFC cable fiasco; and

    "Telstra is prepared to supply access for opponents at a fair and reasonable price" - as determined by Telstra, which means no "opponent" would be able to market services at a price that would be accepted by consumers.

    Telstra has form on this going back over many years.
    anonymous
  • What a laugh

    Telstra is whinging out of pure greed. For that I can't blame them because expanding a business and getting a return on investment is good business practice however Telstra have the knack of going too far with these things and they end up providing services that are under-spec at premium prices.

    I would prefer to see either a G9-style business model introduced with FTTH (not FTTN) or at worst, two national networks with FTTH.

    Time to catch up with and overtake other countries and start leading the world in communications instead of lagging behind like a one-legged bull ant tied to an anvil.

    You might be a fan of Telstra but there are people who aren't. I wouldn't mind dealing with Telstra if they weren't so arrogant and
    anonymous
  • Telstra's scare campaign

    My phone is CDMA, I am not traveling as much as I used to so the network equivalence debate doesn't effect me much personally.

    However, for the last six months or so Telstra has been sending me sms's and letters in an increasingly absolutist and insistent manner "warning" me of the changeover.

    I don't suppose that anyone is surprised that they are trying to drive anyone they can away from the network before the debate if they are allowed to close it yet really gets underway, but I am sure that anyone on the network, who didn't know better has been prepared for the inevitability of the closure irrespective of telstra's commitments to regional Australia.
    anonymous
  • What a laugh

    Telstra is whinging out of pure greed. For that I can't blame them because expanding a business and getting a return on investment is good business practice however Telstra have the knack of going too far with these things and they end up providing services that are under-spec at premium prices.

    I would prefer to see either a G9-style business model introduced with FTTH (not FTTN) or at worst, two national networks with FTTH.

    Time to catch up with and overtake other countries and start leading the world in communications instead of lagging behind like a one-legged bull ant tied to an anvil.

    You might be a fan of Telstra but there are people who aren't. I wouldn't mind dealing with Telstra if they weren't so arrogant and condescending to their punters.

    Please ignore my post further down - I pressed the wrong button.
    anonymous
  • Constitutional interpretation.

    Anonymous (yawn) what say we all sit back and wait for the High Court of Australia to judge on what is "fair and reasonable" with respect of the ACCC acquisition of Telstra property. The question is not the ability of Government to acquire property but the fact that under the Australian Constitution fair and reasonable restitution must be given for such acquisition.
    anonymous
  • Ho hum

    Ah, so what is this fair and reasonable price Telstra bang on about?!? If it is indeed fair and reasonable, lets see it .... the only reason to hide it is if it is not fair :P

    So let Telstra build it so they can gouge their much toted 47% ROI targets from Australian, but when they invest in Asia, they are happy to accept an 8% ROI?!? why the different expectations if Telstra have Australians best interest at heat ...

    I await the horses mouth explanation (or will it be the other end ;) )

    Concerned
    anonymous
  • Pfft

    Acquisition implies ownership, so does that mean Telstra won't be charging ISPs a monthly fee ... because a monthly fee implies ownership by those collecting the fee ....

    So, how much does it cost Telstra to generate a bill? Since line rental is meant to cover maintainence and any other costs associated with the line ...

    Hmmmm
    anonymous