Telstra lashes out at ACCC, industry 'zealots'

Telstra's regulatory affairs has launched an attack against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and claims the telco industry is dominated by a group of "zealots" who want to stifle the telco's role in the market.

In a presentation at the Australian Telecommunications Summit in Sydney on Wednesday, acting director of Telstra Regulatory, Jane Van Beelen, said Australia’s telephony regulations framework was based on developing “regulation by complaint”.

“Regulation should be about protecting [industry] processes, not protecting the profits of Telstra’s competitors,” she said.

In addition, Telstra’s competitors supported the ACCC’s regulation policies because they “believe Telstra should be the fallback option” for consumers, she said.

“It is damaging to consumer interests to remove Telstra, as Australia’s biggest telco/Internet competitor, from competing … for tenders.”

Van Beelen lashed out against the ACCC’s recent report on bundling services in telecommunications markets, and so about the commission’s conclusion that Telstra should divest its interest in pay TV in order to boost broadband take-up and increase competition.

The ACCC’s bundling report was undertaken to investigate the impact bundled services from major telcos such as Telstra and Optus would have on competition from smaller, single-service Internet or telephony providers.

Referring to the report as “draconian”, Van Beelen said it ignored Telstra rival SingTel/Optus’ footprint in the pay TV space.

Van Beelen also criticised the ACCC’s involvement in trying to include smaller national service providers in the existing peer-to-peer arrangement between Australia’s “big four” Internet network providers.

“It’s like a university professor being told [his] peer is a primary school student,” she said.

The “big four” peering group, which includes Telstra, Optus, WorldCom and AAPT/Connect.com.au, are bound by an arrangement which allows customers from any of the four ISPs to send and receive e-mails and access Web sites between particpating Internet networks without any of the ISPs incurring any data transfer charges. If a smaller ISP’s customer sends an e-mail to a user on any of the above mentioned networks, however, the smaller ISP is charged for bandwidth use.

Despite recent figures from the OECD placing Australia 26th in the world in terms of broadband take-up, Van Beelen said Australia’s broadband adoption rate was in fact comparable to high take-up areas.

“The late entry of ADSL in Australia three years ago is overlooked when comparing to Australia’s take-up to the rest of the world,” she said.

Van Beelen blamed regulatory restrictions for the delayed roll-out of ADSL services by Telstra.

The ACCC had not responded to Computerworld’s request for comment on the above claims by the time of posting this article.

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