Feds face up to disputes over Telstra network access

The Federal Government has flagged plans to resolve disputes between phone companies over access to the Telstra network.

Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston is considering changes to the system including compulsory arbitration of disputes and an expanded role for the consumer watchdog, possibly backed up by legislation.

A meeting of industry and government representatives yesterday agreed on the need to speed up and streamline the dispute resolution process, but the government is yet to decide how to proceed.

However, a Telstra spokesman said it is not necessary to boost the powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or introduce legislation.

The spokesman said a tougher regulatory approach should be avoided.

The productivity commission's review of telecommunications regulation is due to report in September, but it said in a draft report that the current rules gave the ACCC too much discretion.

A spokesman for Senator Alston said the consensus about the need for reform was constructive but did not recede from the threat of legislation, although he said a code of practice was another option.

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