Telstra: NBN good, separation bad

Legislation unecessary Telstra says, but if it does proceed then it must have amendments

Telstra has used its appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on telecommunications legislation amendments to reiterate its support for the NBN, and its opposition to the Federal Government’s structural separation bill.

Speaking at the Committeee, Geoff Booth, group managing director, NBN Engagement, said Telstra's support for the Government's NBN vision is not limited to words alone.

He said since the announcement of the Government's NBN vision, Telstra had set up an NBN Engagement Group – which Booth heads - and had undertaken extensive internal work utilising resources across the organisation to evaluate potential options for Telstra's involvement in the NBN.

It had also been engaging in active and constructive discussions with the Government and NBNco about options for Telstra's involvement in the NBN.

Booth said Telstra’s objective from these discussions was to find an outcome that was in the interests of Telstra's shareholders, customers and staff and which realised the Government's vision for the NBN.

“Telstra has made it clear that proposals for involvement in the NBN would only be considered if the board and management of the company were convinced they were in the best interests of Telstra shareholders,” he said. “Telstra will continue to talk with the Government, but we cannot agree to proposals that fail to give fair value to our shareholders.”

Booth reiterated that Telstra strongly believed the way to realise a mutually acceptable outcome on the NBN was via commercial negotiations, not via legislation, and so opposed the passage of the Bill in its current form.

“If the Government decides to proceed with the Bill, we believe that it is only sensible that the Senate defer debate until after the conclusion of the constructive discussions between Telstra and the Government over the NBN and the completion of the Government's NBN Implementation Study,” he said. “We would also urge that significant amendments are made to the Bill.”

Booth said Telstra believed the legislation currently before the Committee was unnecessary as it would impede the achievement of the NBN vision, reduce competition -- especially in the mobile and media markets, and harm consumers, particularly those in rural and remote Australia.

The legislation would also not necessarily result in industry reform, but provide the ACCC with expanded powers unparalleled in any other industry, and destroy value for the 1.4 million shareholders that purchased Telstra shares from the Government over the past 12 years.

Booth said that if the Senate decides to proceed with the Bill, that it also make significant amendments to the Bill to address Telsra’s concerns over functional or structural separation of Telstra and the proposed exclusion of Telstra from acquiring more wireless spectrum unless it agrees to vertical and horizontal structural separation.

The amendments should also address the legislations requirement for Telstra to sell its HFC and Foxtel assets and proposed changes to the Trade Practices Act.

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