Terria bites back at Telstra’s monopolist accusations

Consortium insists its NBN bid is all about competition, in contrast to the monopoly Telstra holds over the nation's telco infrastructure.

The managing director of the Terria consortium, Michael Simmons, hit back at Telstra’s attack on comments he made yesterday regarding Terria’s desire for the government to preclude an alternative National Broadband Network (NBN), labeling it a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Simmons told The Australian that Terria’s proposition to the government is that no party should be allowed to expand the network and operate in competition to the NBN.

Telstra’s new managing director for public policy and communications, David Quilty, was quick to respond with a press release accusing Terria of wanting to take Australia back to the last century and re-monopolise the nation’s telecommunications industry.

“While Terria crows about fairness and encouraging competition it is really the monopolist hiding in the shadows,” Quilty said in the statement, adding that Telstra was strongly committed to open access.

“I think it’s the pot calling the kettle black isn’t it?” Simmons told Computerworld in response to Quilty’s statement, pointing to the monopoly Telstra has held over Australia’s wholesale telecommunications infrastructure since privatisation.

Simmons accused the incumbent of twisting his words and seeking a monopoly position themselves through the NBN - illustrated by the regulatory wish-list it submitted to the government in which it rejected calls for separation and regulation of the NBN owner/operator - and its aggressive protection of fixed line revenues.

“The point that has been lost or missed here is that we’re saying for the network to achieve 98 percent coverage of Australia with uniform pricing, as the government requires, and with open access, means it must be by definition a monopoly - meaning the only network,” Simmons said.

“But it needs to be open access and therefore structurally separated, meaning all access seekers can access that network on equivalent terms, including Telstra. That way you achieve the national outcome; you achieve competition and you also ensure that you don’t end up with monopoly prices because you’ve got ongoing regulation... It doesn’t mean normal commercial practices don’t apply to access.”

Telstra accused Terria of “outrageous” hypocrisy for wanting to remove infrastructure competition, stating that “providing one company with a guaranteed monopoly certainly has not been introduced anywhere in the world and if it happened here, Australia would be turned into the pariah of global telecommunications”.

Simmons agreed with assertions by both Optus and the Competitive Carriers Coalition that Australia could already be considered the pariah of OECD telecommunications, because of Telstra’s monopoly over wholesale access that has driven prices up and hindered competition.

Telstra claimed Australian businesses and consumers “would be the big losers under a Terria-built NBN”. However, the CCC’s David Forman pointed out recently that currently Australian SMEs pay 40 percent above the OECD average, or the third worst in the world, for telecommunications services, while SOHOs pay 35 percent above the OECD average.

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