Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia - Optus calls on opposition to weaken the incumbent's power

[the australian] OPTUS chief Paul O'Sullivan says the Coalition needs to show greater commitment to loosening Telstra's grip on last-mile access to homes.

Mr O'Sullivan was commenting on the Coalition's broadband policy, which would see it scrap Labor's $43 billion plan to replace Telstra's ageing copper network with fibre links, if it was elected.

Labor's plan offers broadband speeds up to a 1Gbps for 93 per cent of the population, but the Coalition believes it is too reckless.

It has a more frugal plan to spend $6.3bn upgrading existing HFC cable, build new long-haul fibre links and provide grants for wireless and satellite technology for regional blackspots.

It also plans to introduce legislation to reform the Trade Practices Act to strengthen competition and promote broadband investment. The reforms would be designed to provide the sector with pricing and regulatory certainty comparable to other industries such as gas and electricity.

However, Mr O'Sullivan said he feared Telstra would be left free to continue leveraging control over its copper network to the detriment of rivals.

"The one area we'd like to see more of in the Coalition policy is a greater commitment to the structural reform of the industry which we think is necessary," Mr O'Sullivan said.

Under Labor's NBN plan, Telstra would effectively become a wholesale customer of NBN Co along with other telecommunications providers.

As part of a deal with the federal government, Telstra has agreed to gradually close its copper network, give NBN Co access to its facilities and move its customers on to the new fibre network in exchange for concessions worth $11bn to the carrier.

Optus government affairs director Maha Krishnapillai said that while the Coalition policy acknowledged the need for better broadband and addressed some key competitive issues, it was missing an essential third element.

"We would like to see greater recognition that Telstra's behaviour over the last decade or so has meant that they've been able to leverage that control over the last mile in a way that they don't think they should be allowed to in the future and we think we would be confident we could work with the Coalition to resolve that," Mr Krishnapillai said.

When he was asked for comment, opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith simply restated parts of the Coalition policy pertaining to competition.

Through a spokesman, Mr Smith said: "On the regulatory front, as our policy states, we will introduce legislation containing the reforms to Part XIB and XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 which are presently contained in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, in substantially the same form as those reforms are presently drafted."

Coalition told to weaken Telstra, says Optus chief

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