Telstra 'poor showing' at hearing irks users

Telstra's appearance at last week's Senate Committee hearing into the Telecommunications Act and privatisation of the telco giant was less than satisfactory, according to an industry player who attended the meeting.

Alasdair Grant, regulatory manager for AAPT, was "quite surprised and disappointed" that representatives from Telstra failed to attend the entire day's hearings.

"Most carriers attended the hearings all day in order to find out how the industry was feeling. We were very surprised that Telstra didn't bother to attend the entire day," Grant told Computerworld.

"We feel that with such an important inquiry which is essentially into Telstra's privatisation, where consumer groups and industry groups are expressing concerns about the way Telstra's behaving in the market . . . [through its absence] Telstra didn't see fit to take note of these concerns."

Delays in the competition notice regime and technical hitches associated with the universal service obligation scheme (USO) top the list of concerns for AAPT and other carriers, including Optus and Macquarie Corporate Telecommunications, Grant said.

"The competition notice regime is taking a lot longer than everyone expected," Grant said.

"For a regime that is supposed to work expeditiously, you're looking at two years-plus to get a result.

"It's not a big deal but we think it's a very important move, particularly given that the whole intention of the regime is not to act as a penalty on the party that does it.

"The most important thing is that it acts as a deterrent to stop companies doing it," he said.

According to Allan Horsley, managing director of Austral-ian Telecommunications User Group (Atug), who was also present at the hearing, the issue stirred the interest of the Senate Committee and several other attendees.

"I think the committee showed intense interest in how to speed up the process of developing the competitive market place and extent to which timeframes should become part of the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and ACA (Australian Communications Authority) processes, rather just depending upon the current expression that things must take place in an expeditious way," Horsley said.

With regard to the USO scheme, Grant said AAPT proposes industry players assist the ACA in its scrutiny of claims from Telstra.

"There's what we regard as a minor technical glitch in that the ACA can release information that Telstra uses to base its claim but only after its finalised its assessment.

"By then its no point [to us]," Grant said.

According to Horsley, other issues of concern included Telstra's performance and assessment, and Australian and foreign ownership of carriers.

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More about AAPTACAATUGAustralian Communications AuthorityAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionHorsleyMacquarie Corporate TelecommunicationsOptusTelecommunications User GroupTelstra Corporation

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