ACCC Intervene Interconnect Issue

A six month public enquiry will be conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to determine whether an Internet interconnection service should be regulated under the Trade Practices Act.

Following requests from the telecommunications industry, the ACCC will focus on the consumer impact of such competition within the market, hoping to determine the extent of Internet data flow and how this will impact on consumers in the future.

In May 1998 the ACCC issued a Competition Notice to Telstra alleging it had engaged in anti-competitive conduct by charging its Internet competitors for services provided by Telstra while at the same time refusing to pay for a similar service it received from the same Internet competitors.

“There are some apparent curiosities with current interconnection arrangements,” acting ACCC chairman, Ross Jones, said.

Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, also recently wrote to the ACCC requesting information on the impact that domestic Internet interconnection arrangements are having on competition.

He also asked that the ACCC undertake relevant investigations on the issue.

ACCC communications general manager, Michael Cosgrave, said that the industry had not yet developed a mainstream solution for the interconnection problem.

“ISP’s have a great deal of data flowing through their systems," Cosgrave said. "The wholesale arrangements between the companies are not being agreed upon, so there seems a need for the ACCC to step in.”

The major companies involved in these arrangements are Telstra, Optus and Worldcom.

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