Telstra says it's not at fault for iiNet's Canberra outage

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Telstra says it's not at fault for iiNet's Canberra outage

Telstra is not deliberately yanking the copper from under iiNet's Naked DSL customers in Canberra, as reported in the Australian Financial Review yesterday.

The story, perpetuated by ALP Senator Kate Lundy and the head of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, David Forman, reads that iiNet customers hooked up to a Telstra exchange in Canberra will be left stranded after Telstra cut connection lines to force customers to move to its new service.

Lundy used every opportunity at yesterday's Senate Select Committee hearing to question telcos, experts and regulators over the matter, while simultaneously Forman released a scathing media statement decrying Telstra's anti-competitive behaviour.

"Telstra's move to cut off competitor services in a Canberra exchange is yet another warning about the company's true motive: to continue to bully competitors and stifle broadband competition in Australia," said Forman's release.

For a while the story was gaining traction. Lundy even managed to get ACCC commissioner Ed Willett on record saying that the regulator will look into the claims.

"We've been highly cognisant for some time of the potential for the installation of RIMs (Remote Integrated Multiplexers) to strand DSLAM investments," Willett said.

"There can be legitimate reasons to deploy RIMs. There can also be anticompetitive effects, with relatively short notice periods, [and] we'll be having a look at those questions. If there is a case it contravenes the Act, we'll be taking action."

Willett might have saved himself the effort by staying around an extra ten minutes to give Telstra's group managing director of public policy, David Quilty, a chance to answer for Telstra.

It turns out that while iiNet customers are being displaced, they are doing so by no choice of Telstra.

Telstra, Quilty told the committee, had to move its sub exchange from its current leased premise in Phillip, Canberra, as its lease has expired. More so, the lease only expired because the building is to be demolished.

"I am informed there's 18 ULL and 24 spectrum sharing services across six wholesale customers - a total of 42 services affected," Quilty said.

"I'm informed as a result of this lease expiry, this building will be demolished and Telstra will be moving to new premises at the MLC building in Phillip.

Telstra's Wholesale customers may be able to supply services from this new sub-exchange, he said, but it will require their own investment in interconnect equipment as there is "no room for additional racks to be installed in new location."

"We don't envisage the costs to our wholesale customers to be significant," he said. "This is something being forced on Telstra, and the vast majority of costs will be incurred by Telstra. "

Quilty said affected customers were given 15 weeks notice about the disruption.

"In total, there is only one other example in Australia where this has happened," Quilty said. "So we've had 47 services where we've had to issue [these] notifications. That represents 0.005% of total ULL and spectrum services we offer."

Lundy, embarrassingly unaware the building was to be demolished, asked whether her constituents in Canberra had been advised of the reason their services were to be disconnected.

"My response is, rather cheekily, it would take a phone call from them, or someone who represents them to make a phone call to me, and you would have been given this perfectly reasonable explanation," Quilty replied.

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