Telstra has promised to start building its proposed new fibre-based IP broadband network as early as next year – but only as long as the telco does not have to share the infrastructure with any of its competitors.
“If Telstra’s 1.6 million Australian shareholders are being asked to build the new network, then they shouldn’t be forced to hand it over to our competitors,” said Telstra’s public policy MD, Phil Burgess, in an inflammatory statement that moved Optus chief Paul O’Sullivan to accuse his nemesis of demanding a “massive regulatory free kick.”
O’Sullivan said Telstra was using its imminent privatisation to attempt to leverage regulatory outcomes from government so that it can “stitch up a new monopoly in broadband over the next decade.” He repeated an offer for Optus to join Telstra in a joint fibre rollout.
Adding fuel to the regulatory fire that continues to smoulder between Telstra and the Federal Government, Burgess told an investor briefing in Sydney that the telco would seek legislative reforms before proceeding with the network upgrade.
He said existing laws were inadequate because the processes were slow and cumbersome. He called for an average ULL price of $30, limitations on operational separation and exemption for new services from third-party access rules.
Added Telstra’s chief financial officer John Stanhope: “It’s now more than a decade since Australia’s telecommunications market was opened to competition. Telstra’s competitors are now big and profitable – in many cases backed by multinational corporations many times bigger than Telstra.”
But Telstra’s statements were cutting no ice with Comms and IT Minister Helen Coonan, who is ultimately responsible for the Telstra regulatory regime. “There will be no regulatory break,”
snapped the Minister in TV news interviews. “(Telstra executives) should try out the rules before they try to change the rules.