commentary The telecommunications industry is keeping a close eye on the
nation's competition regulator this week. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is
widely tipped to be on the verge of resolving two of the
industry's thorniest problems.
Telstra and the regulator are reportedly close to inking a
deal that would see Telstra commence building the Fibre to the
Node (FTTN) national broadband network it put on hold in
Telstra temporarily halted building the network due to its
belief government regulations would force it to open the
fibre-optic infrastructure to rivals as it currently has to do
with its copper equivalent.
After several appeals from Telstra to the federal government
to change those regulations, it finally appears as if Telstra and
the ACCC may be on the verge of a breakthrough.
In a separate development, the ACCC reportedly will soon issue
Telstra with a competition notice over the company's December
increase of line rental charges to its wholesale customers.
The last competition notice issued in the telecommunications
sector was over a similar issue on broadband pricing back in
At the time most saw the notice as a huge victory for
competition in broadband, but six months later the ACCC resolved
its issues with Telstra and slapped it on the wrist with what
some saw as an AU$6.5 million "parking fine".
"Given the damage that Telstra's conduct caused the industry
as it reaped outstanding benefits, the $6.5 million Telstra now
has to pay could be characterised as an excellent investment,"
Primus' regulatory affairs manager Ian Slattery said at the
"This demonstrates the failure of the telecommunications
competition regime and the need for its urgent rehabilitation
before Telstra is unleashed as a fully privatised entity,"
Clearly Telstra still sees the ability to control wholesale
prices as a competitive advantage, and why shouldn't it? The
telco's planned FTTN network also fits into this category.
Realising this, the superficial challenge before the ACCC with
both of these issues is how to regulate the giant in a way that
will maintain and foster competition.
However the real problem for the regulator is how to avoid
being seen as ineffectual by an industry that well remembers the
"parking fine" the ACCC issued this time last year. A repeat
offence on the part of the ACCC could see more local telcos give
up on the regulator and start lobbying the Federal government to
Will the ACCC fold before Telstra's might or sink the boot
into the giant telco? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.