The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has published submissions to the National Broadband Network: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband discussion paper with both Telstra and the ACCC outlining their differences over structural separation of the telco.
More than 120 submissions were made by individuals, companies and stakeholders with ideas for reforming the competition and consumer-protection arrangements for the telco industry.
Organisations that submitted articles range from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Telstra (ASX: TLS) to less likely bodies such as the National Rugby League and the Whittlesea City Council.
The rivalry between the ACCC and Telstra was clear, with the regulatory body continuing its strong calls for structural separation.
“The current operational separation regime is not an appropriate structural arrangement for Telstra during the transition to the NBN,” the ACCC’s submission stated. “Structural separation of Telstra is the only framework that will ensure equivalence in access during the transition to the NBN.”
Even the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) took a side in its statements.
“The ABC believes that Telstra’s dominance of the wholesale and retail broadband services markets in Australia has restricted competition and led to higher prices, which have in turn discouraged take-up of fast broadband services,” the ABC's statement stated.
Although Telstra acknowledged the separation calls, its submission stated these were wrong and that the ACCC should not be given the power to make binding rules of conduct.
“Telstra does not support proposals that would require it to divest its HFC network or prevent it from accessing the spectrum that is required for the provision of next generation wireless services,” its statement said.
“Competition between networks is increasingly driving investment, technological innovation and customer choice. With a fixed copper network, two capital-city cable networks, at least three national mobile broadband networks and a range of other wireless broadband providers, Australia is well placed to benefit from infrastructure competition.”
According to ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, Telstra’s stance is more of the same despite the change in leadership and highlighted the need for a stronger regulatory body.
“The ACCC has put forward some proposals that seek to ensure that at least in this interim period of eight years we have effective powers to regulate the competition. When you’re an incumbent in a dominant position in the industry, you’ll of course put forward arguments that suggest that those powers aren’t necessary,” he said.
But in spite of Telstra’s submission and continuation of appeals against ACCC decisions, Samuel claimed he was seeing signs of improvement.
“I’ve known David [Thodey, Telstra's new CEO] for more than15 years and he’s certainly exhibited signs of a more conciliatory approach to dealing with the regulator. But it is early days and I don’t expect to see Telstra simply roll over,” Samuel said.
“On the other hand one would hope that some of the public belligerence that was exhibited under past regimes will disappear so we can get down to some useful interaction.”
Telstra refused to comment on the ACCC's submission or comments.