NBN request: Reigning in the gorilla that is Telstra

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NBN request: Reigning in the gorilla that is Telstra

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy’s National Broadband Network (NBN) Request for Proposal (RFP) has made people sit up and take serious notice of the current situation.

According to independent telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde, it is clear that the RFP very much favours Telstra and the majority of analysts and observers agree.

“At the same time people like me have long been saying that it will be impossible to develop a national broadband infrastructure without Telstra,” he said. “We also warned during the privatisation process that if we did not develop a clear regulatory regime around a privatised Telstra the incumbent would pursue its shareholders interests, the goal of which would be to maximise its monopolistic position in the market.”

Budde said you can’t really blame Telstra for doing precisely that, although he would have hoped that, in addition to looking after its shareholders, Telstra would also have taken into account the interests of its customers – such as providing affordable access to high-speed broadband.

“But in the end that is a matter for the company. This lack of cooperation from Telstra has been quite unfortunate for the Government. It realised that it would not have an NBN without Telstra, and that making the RFP too tough would frighten Telstra off. The outcome of the RFP has certainly not scared it away, but most of the remainder of the industry is now probably feeling very much left out,” he claimed.

To compensate for appeasing Telstra, the Minister has asked the rest of the industry to come up with innovative alternatives for an NBN, plus suggestions for the regulatory environment, said Budde.

“It is unlikely that anything much will be done about the first request, so the rest of the industry now needs to concentrate on preparing submissions aimed at reining Telstra in,” he said.

According to Budde, several telcos have already indicated to him that their company strategists have been sent back to the drawing board to develop policies based on an expectation that there will be another 10 to 15 years of the same regulatory environment of the last decade.

“I am a born optimist and I also think we have no other alternative than, yet again, to become engaged in the discussion, and to begin preparing submissions aimed at the structural industry changes we need,” he said.

The Minister himself has on several occasions mentioned that he sees a clear need for such changes, and he has very openly applauded similar developments in Britain, New Zealand, Singapore and the Netherlands, claimed Budde.
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