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Rivals tell Telstra to make plans public

Several rival telcos have reacted to the breakdown of Telstra's talks with the competition regulator over a new fibre broadband network by demanding Telstra make its proposal public. This morning Telstra said differing opinions over costs had forced an impasse in the talks with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
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Written by Renai LeMay on
Several rival telcos have reacted to the breakdown of Telstra's talks with the competition regulator over a new fibre broadband network by demanding Telstra make its proposal public.

This morning Telstra said differing opinions over costs had forced an impasse in the talks with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The two had for some months been negotiating terms under which the network would be built.

The telco this afternoon released some technical -- but not other -- details of its draft proposal, but some competitors called for more.

"It's probably time for Telstra now to come out publicly with the material that it thinks is reasonable," Macquarie Telecom's national executive for regulatory and government, Matt Healy, told ZDNet Australia via telephone.

"This is the time for Telstra to show the detail of what it's been discussing with the Commission. We think that should have been done quite some time ago."

The comments echo recent sentiments by ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel that Telstra should make its proposal available to all.

"We call on Telstra and the ACCC to now release the proposal and the two percent issues that became sticking points," said iiNet general manager of regulator affairs Steve Dalby.

But Phil Burgess, Telstra's group managing director for public policy and communications, said this morning in a media teleconference that Telstra saw no need to release its draft proposal as it would not be working further with the ACCC on the conditions under which the network would be built.

Telstra's fibre just a feint?
In an e-mailed statement, Optus director of corporate and regulatory affairs Paul Fletcher alleged Telstra had not been serious about building the network.

"Today's announcement confirms suspicions Telstra's fibre to the node plans were simply a regulatory leverage technique," Fletcher said in an e-mailed statement.

"The suspicion is reinforced by Telstra's refusal to publicly disclose its regulatory terms for building the network."

The Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC), a lobby group representing telcos like iiNet, Internode, PowerTel and Macquarie Telecom, backed Fletcher's view.

"By declaring war on the competition rules, Telstra succeeded in creating months of confusion and uncertainty for its competitors' investment plans, while it was falsely talking up the progress of discussions with the Commission," CCC executive director David Forman said in a statement.

"We always said it was a Bunyip, a creature of the dark. Well, now the spotlight's been brought to bear, it's just dissolved," said iiNet's Dalby, describing Telstra's fibre plans as "a ploy".

Telstra's rivals were also united in pointing out they continued to move forward in building broadband networks of their own irrespective of what Telstra did.

"The rest of the industry has been getting on with it for the year in which Telstra has been vacillating -- delivering up to 24Mbps ADSL services to the market while Telstra customers languish at 1.5Mbps," said Internode managing director Simon Hackett in an e-mail to ZDNet Australia.

"The rest of the market (and their customers) have been marching forward while Telstra cries in the corner over milk that it just spent a year spilling over its own head."

The telcos commenting on Telstra's decision are also members of a consortium known as the G9, representing major competition to Telstra's services in Australia. The group has in recent months proposed an alternative fibre network plan.

"Regardless of Telstra's game playing, the G9 is continuing to work on its detailed plans and recently met with the ACCC," said Optus's Fletcher. "If our discussions with the ACCC and other parties progress well, we will have more to say. However, we anticipate the process will take a number of months."

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