Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel today called on Telstra
to "throw the switch" in more exchanges to its faster
next-generation ADSL2+ service.
"Activate ADSL2+ in those DSLAMs you have already
installed and offer high speed broadband to the vast majority of
Australians, as you can," Samuel said during a speech in Sydney.
"And stop using the now overplayed excuse of regulatory
constraints as a subterfuge, in the hope that you might be able
to persuade our politicians to remove regulations designed to
foster and promote competition."
Samuel's comments come several weeks after Telstra started selling ADSL2+ services -- but only in areas where competitors already offered the service. It has the capability in some other areas, but remains unwilling to switch on the higher speeds due to concerns the ACCC would force it to offer the speeds to rivals as a wholesale service.
Samuel said today although ADSL was available in exchanges
covering about 91 per cent of the population, which could be
readily upgraded to provide the faster service, Telstra had only
upgraded about 364 exchanges with a catchment of about 46 per
cent of the population.
"The laws give the ACCC the power to give Telstra's
investments away to competitors at below cost," a Telstra
spokesman said today.
"The company wants to roll out high speed broadband across
Australia, but is being prevented from doing so by the
regulations as they stand today." But Samuel has dismissed the
concerns, saying wholesale broadband is not a regulated
He said Telstra could apply for an exemption under the laws if
it wanted more certainty.
But the telco said such a tack was not feasible because it had
failed in previous attempts, and even if granted an exemption,
the ACCC could still vary the terms and conditions.
Samuel also called on Telstra to release its abandoned
fibre-to-the-node, or FTTN, proposal to the public.
In August, Telstra scrapped plans to build a new $4 billion
fibre optic broadband network after negotiations with the ACCC
over regulatory issues broke down.
Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan immediately backed Samuel's comments in a written statement.
"For Telstra's part, for too long they have capped broadband speeds at 1.5Mbps,
artificially constraining consumers from getting the speeds they deserve. And while they
have switched on their faster ADSL2+ broadband service in recent weeks, they have only
done so in exchanges where competitors are already offering fast broadband speeds," she said.
"Telstra cannot continue to falsely claim government regulation stands in the way of
giving consumers faster broadband. Samuel made his position plain today showing
there are no regulatory impediments to giving more Australians access to ADSL 2+."
Coonan said demand existed for the higher speeds, and Telstra's shareholders should urge the company to take advantage of the opportunity to offer higher speeds.
"Ultimately it will be competition that will force Telstra to act. There is no better example
of this than Telstra's approach with ADSL2+. And it will be competition that delivers
Australian consumers more choice of broadband provider, more choice of broadband
speeds at a price they can afford," she said.
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