The Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) and chair of Broadband World Australia 2008 have claimed that Telstra has pulled out of the event after it failed to force conference organiser, Terrapinn, to remove the CCC and independent telco analyst, Paul Budde, from the program.
The CCC represents the interests of non-dominant telco carriers in Australia such as iiNet, Hutchison, TransACT and Primus, and according to its website advocates "pro-competition policy and regulation". Budde is chairing Broadband World Australia 2008 taking place Wednesday and Thursday this week in Sydney, and along with the CCC has been a proponent of an open access next-generation National Broadband Network (NBN).
Both Budde and the CCC believe Telstra wants to carry over the monopoly it currently holds over telecommunications infrastructure onto the NBN, whose tender is yet to be awarded. They have warned throughout the NBN debate that a Telstra owned and operated NBN would continue the anti-competitive environment of Australia’s current telecommunications industry, where Australians pay among the highest OECD prices for the poorest speeds. They argue Telstra should undergo some form of separation to split the incumbent’s retail and wholesale arms to remove the incentive to favour itself.
The CCC issued a press release on Tuesday stating that Terrapinn did not bow to Telstra’s demands that it remove the CCC from Broadband World Australia if it wanted Telstra to meet its commitment to provide a speaker at the event, after the CCC indicated it would not voluntarily step down.
“[Telstra] said it would not attend because the NBN bids had not been submitted and because it did not like the ‘balance’ of a panel discussion,” the release said.
Budde told ARN he offered to stand aside to be replaced by a Telstra nominee as moderator of the panel session to placate Telstra, but said the telco rejected the compromise and instead pulled out altogether. He said it was totally inappropriate for Telstra to interfere with the scheduling of an independent conference organiser.
“It clearly shows a total abuse of its dominant power, this is what I call an absolute interference in freedom of speech," Budde said.
“It’s a commercial activity for Terrapinn, these people live for conferences, but they stuck to their guns and said ‘no, we are an independent conference organisation and we are not going to do that’. So Telstra said ‘OK, we withdraw’."
A Telstra spokesperson told ARN that it was originally envisaged the Conference would occur after the lodgement of proposals under the National Broadband Network RFP.
“With the later lodgement date, this is no longer the case. The combination of the need to maintain confidentiality under the National Broadband Network RFP and the inability to reach agreement on a fair and balanced panel meant that regrettably Telstra was no longer in a position to participate,” the spokesperson said.
Telstra has participated in other conferences regarding the NBN where the CCC has been present.