Telstra talks broadband regulation, Libs let fly

Telstra talks broadband regulation, Libs let fly

Summary: It's not at all quiet on the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network front, as telcos lodge their submissions on regulatory issues for the AU$4.7 billion national broadband network (NBN) and the Liberal party throws a spanner in the works by starting an inquiry into the government's handling of the network tender.


It's not at all quiet on the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network front, as telcos lodge their submissions on regulatory issues for the AU$4.7 billion national broadband network (NBN) and the Liberal party throws a spanner in the works by starting an inquiry into the government's handling of the network tender.

According to Kate McKenzie, Telstra wholesale group MD, Telstra is fully behind an open access network where the telco has called in its submission for new legislation to lock in the terms of core wholesale access to the network.

"If this network is going to be built, the builder needs up-front certainty that its investment will not be undermined or given away by regulatory changes once a decision to invest is made," McKenzie said in a statement.

"It's not just Telstra — for anyone who's going to spend 10, 15, 20 billion dollars, you need some certainty," a Telstra spokesperson added.

The submission also says the building of the network should not be split up between bidders and that the new network should not have to be backwards compatible with old technologies.

To regulate the network new rules are needed, according to Telstra's McKenzie, as some regulatory processes will be made redundant. "The current regulatory framework never envisaged the type of network, products, applications and services that the NBN can provide. If we continue to regulate for plain old telephone services then we are going to end up with plain old telephone services."

In its response to the submission, iiNet said that Telstra is looking to castrate competitors by rendering them simple resellers of Telstra products. Innovation will go by the wayside, the company believes, using Telstra's late switch on of enabled ADSL2+ services as an example.

Optus also lodged a submission which, like Telstra's, calls for regulatory reform, but for different reasons.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity to get the regulatory settings right to encourage a vibrant and competitive broadband market and to deliver the government's bold visions for this infrastructure," Maha Krishnapillai, Optus director of government and corporate affairs, said in a statement.

"With its dominant market position, Telstra has held both the telecommunications industry and the Australian economy to ransom for decades. It has made no secret of its desire to use the NBN to raise prices for consumers and increase its profits, already high by international standards to world record levels. If the government takes bold steps then competition will be enhanced ensuring Australians receive the lowest possible prices, the best possible service and the greatest degree of innovation."

Structural separation formed the core of the document, according to the company, which says separation will stop a multi-year cycle of fear, delays and litigation which has been killing competition.

Even with separation, Optus says the ACCC will need to have a strong role in the NBN.

The submission does not focus on a winning Optus case, but says at the start that it is bringing forward the regulatory reforms which are necessary "if Telstra be chosen to construct and operate the NBN".

Terria also made a submission demanding structural separation of the winning party, as well as outlining the minimum access wholesale buyers should receive: services which allow flexibility of seekers' retail offerings; the ability to build onto the network where it makes financial sense; a point to point service providing backhaul; a telephone service; and a platform for services such as broadcast IPTV.

The group wants the ACCC to take the reins, assuring that the network operator receives a return to make the risk worthwhile, but doesn't allow "gold plating".

One big happy family?
The best result for Australian consumers, according to Paul Sullivan, Optus CEO, would be if Telstra were to join the Terria party. "Optus and Terria have said time and time again that we are ready, willing and able to deliver a national broadband network. We are willing to co-invest with parties across the industry — including Telstra — to get the network built," he said in a statement.

"Why not co-invest with Optus and Terria in providing competition, fairly priced high speed broadband to as many Australians as possible."

Telstra said, however, Optus's logic is twisted and shows Optus's desperation.

Meanwhile, Conroy battles the opposition
The Federal opposition has used its Senate majority to send the Rudd government's national broadband plans to an inquiry, successfully moving to set up a select committee to report by 30 March 2009.

The Senate committee will have an opposition majority, and must examine the impact of the government proposal on service availability, choice, costs and competition in telecommunications and broadband services.

It will also examine the "likely consequences for national productivity, investment, economic growth, cost of living and social capital".

The government accused the opposition of abusing its Senate majority and seeking to sabotage the project.

"First there is the potential for this inquiry to undermine or jeopardise a live commercial process, already under way," Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said.

"Have an inquiry at the end, when we've made a decision, feel free.

"But to actually try and interfere in a live commercial tender process is grossly irresponsible, and you should be embarrassed."

The inquiry was unnecessary because there was already a robust public debate going on about the project, Conroy said.

Furthermore, stakeholders would be constrained from giving thorough evidence because of the current proceedings of the commercial tender process, Senator Conroy said.

The committee must seek input from the telecommunications industry, industry analysts, consumer advocates, broadband users and service providers.

AAP contributed to this article

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

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Ummm, LIbs... You've Already Been There...

    Whether or not the govt. is mishandling the issue, the Libs, under the leadership of Howard, kinda screwed things up in the first place. Not only did Howard sell off vital telecommunication infrastructure he sat back and let Telstra become the monster it now is. Until we get rid of those bozos like Sol Trujillo and Geoff Booth, there won't be any real positive change.
  • Don't sell the farm Australia.

    If the Libs really want to do some good for Australia they will push for a break-up of Optus(to be at least majority Australian owned) before It is considered for ownership of Australia's vital telecommunication network.
  • Optus should be seperated

    I have always said for years Optus should be made to be separated, by they are hypocric they want Telstra to be separated but not them.

    So who is going to take Optus serious any more

    No one
  • RE: Optus should be seperated

    A free ride? Optus being seperated? Oh please, take your Telstra hype elsewhere. Last I checked Optus do not have a nationwide monopoly then on the other hand at least Optus is still actively investing and deploying thier own hardware and infrastructure. Where as Telstra has stated time and time agian they aren't going to be putting and more copper in the ground. And forcing many thousands of people such as myself onto RIMs and CMUX units. Which removes our ability to get ADSL2 at all and not to mention as more and more people sign up to broadband these RIMs and CMUX units get capped to a speed of 2.5 mb/s. This is exactly the situation i am in right now, which thanks to the monopoly that Telstra has there is no chance for me nor others in the same boat to get anything done until Telstra get off thier asses.
  • Break up Optus?

    What the? If you want Optus to be majority Australian owned, start buying shares. I don't understand this harping on about Australian ownership. The majority of IT and telecommunications spend in this country is from foreign vendors. Didn't Telstra spend billions Cisco, Erricson, Alactel etc? All our major coprorates outsource to CSC, EDS, IBM and the like - they did start using Kaz until they were bought out and then wrecked.
    You want to push a nationalist barrow, lobby the carriers to start using Australian suppliers!
  • "True Competition"

    What Australia needs is "true Competition" not the regulated stuff OPTUS has sponged off for the last decade under the Howard Government (Ned I reminde you of the OPEL scandal where OPTUS/SINGTEL tried to syphon off 1 Billion dollars of Taxpayers money)

    Telstra has said the Network will be "Open Access" and yet still SINGTEL/OPTUS is crying out for more free kicks so the free ride they enjoyed under COONAN/ALSTON can continue!!!
  • RE: True Competition

    The day Telstra gives open access is the day hell will freeze over. They are not only delaying the roll out of competitors own equipment but at the same time screaming and crying that the competitors don't invest. Let's look back to the past and remember how long it took for Telstra to uncap the download speeds of ADSL1, and then there is the fact uploads are still capped. And now with ADSL2 here they said they would not wholesale it. And now as thier competitors gather more and more steam and the talk of seperation is flying Telstra suddenly backflip and announce they are looking at wholesaleing ADSL2.

    What Australia needs is cheaper and fairer access to broadband. Something that will never happen under Telstra with their insistence on an 18% after tax ROI.
  • Sensible debate please.

    If it is not important for our vital communication network to be in Australian hands why has our Government a 35% maximum foreign ownership regulation on Telstra.

    One trick Senator Conroy must be vigilant against is not to bow to Terria demands that any NBN must be free of competition. No matter who builds the NBN let opponents build and challenge if they consider it profitable to do so.

    Also, it might be appropriate for the anti Telstra Circus to stop their futile attacks on Telstra, face facts as they are, and try to debate in an adult and intelligent way to promote their argument.
  • Yes Optus - Pfft.

    You're forced onto RIM's! Ok, instead of simply blaming Telstra, why don't you contact your Mary Poppins - practically perfect in every way - telecommunications company, Optus, and ask them what they are going to do for you? Especially since they love to, and are investing so much money, they'd surely welcome investing in such a loyal foot soldier as you.
  • The bottom line is

    On one hand we have got all other telco's and the best interests of australians at hand.
    and then there's telstra.
    It's really a no brainer!
  • say hello to mr gullible

    yes all the other telco's are perfect, wonderful, sweet and innocent. They'll probably even let us have our BB for free or even pay us. there certainly is a no brainer here all right, isn't there John! talk about gullible!
  • Spirit of Australia.

    Everybody is pushing their own barrow here . My hope is that Senator Conroy pushes Australia's barrow and grants Australia's Telstra the NBN build.
  • Who is Gullible??

    Did i say any of the tripe you just dribbled???
    And if you think every one else is wrong and only telstra is right then you are really the Gullible one aren't you.
  • ha

    Why don't you try na, na nana, na - bright spark?

    Talking about a no brainer Jon!