ACCC sues Telstra over exchange access

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ACCC sues Telstra over exchange access

Competitors have welcomed Federal Court proceedings brought against Telstra by the ACCC alleging the incumbent refused access seeker requests for interconnection.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said in a statement today that it is seeking "declarations, pecuniary penalties and injunctions" as a result of the filings.

The matter is due before the Court on April 17.

The ACCC alleges that Telstra has refused access seeker requests for interconnection at seven key metropolitan exchanges by claiming that they were "capped".

"In particular, Telstra claimed that there was no capacity on the main distribution frames available for access seekers to interconnect their equipment to the copper wires running to customer homes," the ACCC said.

"The ACCC alleges that there was capacity available, or that could have been made available, on Telstra's main distribution frames."

The ACCC is also alleging that Telstra has breached the access regime in the Telco Act which requires Telstra to provide access to its facilities.

Both the standard access obligations and the access regime in the Telco Act are conditions of Telstra's carrier licence, ACCC said.

The Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC) has welcomed the move.

"Member companies of the Competitive Carriers' Coalition have for years been complaining to the ACCC that Telstra has been frustrating their attempts to exercise their legal rights to access Telstra exchange buildings so they can install their own equipment," executive director David Forman said.

"In some cases Telstra has kept competitors out of exchanges for years, which has stopped consumers from being given the choice of competitive prices and services.

iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby alleged today that there were "numerous instances" where Telstra had prevented iiNet from being able to provide "cheaper faster broadband to its customers by falsely claiming exchanges were "capped or not providing access to the network as required under Telstra's license conditions.

"Telstra's actions continue to hamper competition, reduce investment by competitive carriers and create blockages to innovative product delivery," Dalby said.

But Telstra has accused the ACCC of dredging up old history "for a past failure to allow access to a handful of exchanges".

Telstra said in a statement of its own that it "proactively reviewed its processes for determining when an exchange building was full and hence unavailable for competitors to install their equipment" at the beginning of last year.

Of its more than 5000 exchanges, 76 were listed as full but 24 were "immediately removed from the list" upon completion of the review.

A further 24 were listed as potentially capped, leaving less than one per cent of exchanges categorised as full, Telstra said.

"The ACCC is suing us for something we proactively and voluntarily reviewed and fixed a year ago," Telstra's group managing director of public policy and communications, David Quilty, said.

"This case relates to a small number of inadvertent process issues.

"There was an issue and we fixed it - without the involvement of the ACCC.

"Since we fixed the problem a year ago, the ACCC has not once suggested it had problems with our new processes."

"You have a situation where a company proactively checks its processes, finds minor and inadvertent errors, immediately rectifies the problem but is hounded through the courts regardless," Quilty said.


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