Editorial: Comms costs - what's your story?

Here's a news flash: Telstra is sick of 'Telstra bashing'. Executives such as Deena Shiff, Telstra director, regulatory, claims that criticisms of its costings are part of a "one-sided, ill-informed, Telstra-bashing exercise designed to promote the short-term interests of rival telecommunications companies against the long-term interests of Australian consumers".

Ms Shiff had seized upon a new Productivity Commission staff research paper, Population and Distributionn Telecommunications Costs, and issued a press release arguing that real network access costs in country areas were greatly underestimated because international benchmarks show little consideration of unique local conditions. These conditions were listed as low population density, geology (a lot of rock), climate (floods) and high input costs (wages). The paper estimated that 5 per cent of the total number of lines account for about 25 per cent of the total cost of providing local telephone service.

The matter of business comms costs - data transmission in particularly - has been a source of aggravation for consumers since the early Jurassic. Allan Horsley, managing director of the Australian Telecommunications User Group (Atug) sees red over dismissal of comms cost complaints as one-sided and ill-informed.

Horsley says that while many of Atug's members have noted cuts in voice costs, many still feel ripped off by charges for essential data services. These haven't tracked down as could be expected with increased carrier efficiencies built on the back of new technology and staff reductions. Third-party service providers, meanwhile, say they're hamstrung by the high cost of interconnecting to the Telstra backbone. Cable & Wireless Optus, with its own backbone infrastructure, complains about what it sees as unreasonable tardiness on the part of Telstra to perform "complex number" porting procedures for around 40 former Telstra business clients moving to CWO (page 14).

I'm sure there's two sides to this porting story, as there would be any other alleged self-interested "Telstra bashing". What I want to hear is your data comms story - your experiences of costs and service with whatever supplier you have been using. I don't have the inside information on your comms budgets for voice and data. However, I would happily set aside a few pages of Computerworld to debate the issue of trends in Australian corporate data and voice costs over the past two or three years. Space would also be allocated for Telstra and other leading providers to put their case.

Please contact me at david_beynon@idg.com.auDavid_Beynon@idg.com.auEditor in chief

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More about ATUGCable & WirelessCWOHorsleyOptusProductivity CommissionTelecommunications User GroupTelephone ServiceTelstra Corporation

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