NBN public debate in Sydney misses the point

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NBN public debate in Sydney misses the point

iiNet has imparted a blunt warning to both Terria and Telstra at today’s highly-anticipated debate, calling on both parties to drop historical and theoretical arguments and focus on the best interests of the customer.

It was the departing thought in what was an at-times heated debate on the National Broadband Network
- and one that seemed to degenerate somewhat into a predictable tit-for-tat between Optus and Telstra’s panel ‘representative’ on mobile networks, structural separation, open access and pricing regimes.

Earlier, both prospective bidders separately presented 10-minute positioning statements that highlighted their readiness to build the network, should they participate in the tender process.

Terria’s representative, Maha Krishnapillai, director of government and corporate affairs at Optus, told delegates that Terria is ‘playing to win’ with its bid ‘but we must get the regulatory framework [around it] right’ in order for it to achieve the best outcome for consumers.

Krishnapillai would not be drawn on which equipment makers it would use to build out the network, it Terria was to succeed with its bid; however, he did restate the consortium’s intention to make a bid.

“The NBN is a highly attractive infrastructure investment,” said Krishnapillai.

“Ultimately we believe it will result in a good rate of return and we have the financiers to back that up.”

Krishnapillai used most of his time to ‘decode’ quotes made by Telstra executives in the public domain, and was critical of what he claimed was the incumbent’s desire to achieve a greater than 60 percent return if it were to build the NBN.

David Havyatt, principal for Havyatt Associates, presented the case for Telstra. He claimed that Terria’s biggest criticism of Telstra was that it has been consistent over many years in calling for open access without structural separation.

That claim drew a stinging rebuke from the Competitive Carriers Coalition executive director, David Forman.

“The term open access in Australia is presently undergoing a ‘Telstra’ing’. Telstra is trying to use the term in such a way as to none to subtly change its meaning to suit the purposes of its National Broadband Network proposal,” Forman said.

“For years open access has been inextricably linked with the structure of a business and what a business does and does not do. It is an arrangement that ensures a network owner or wholesaler deals with all retailers on the same basis.”

Forman continued: “Ask yourself this question – if Telstra is truly committed to open access, and if open access means there is no advantage in owning the infrastructure, why is Telstra so vehemently opposed to any form of separation?

“The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. Telstra is proposing an arrangement where it will gain a competitive advantage over everyone else, and dressing it up as open access,” said Forman.

A poll conducted by iTnews during our live coverage of the debate pointed to Terria as the overwhelming winner of the debate.

None of the respondents indicated that ‘today, broadband was the real winner’.

Read a replay of iTnews live coverage of the Terria vs. Havyatt debate here.

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