The federal government — on the back of its NBN announcement — also has released a regulatory reform discussion paper to seek public comment on ways to improve telecommunications regulations.
According to the government, the existing regime needs to be reformed to "improve competition and strengthen consumer safeguards".
"The regulatory reform paper seeks views on the options the government will consider for reform of the existing regime to make it work more effectively, particularly during the rollout of the NBN", said Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
"A vibrant, competitive telecommunications sector is important for delivering lower prices, better quality and more innovative services for Australian consumers and businesses."
One of the main points raised in the reform paper is the potential split of Telstra's business — in an effort to promote greater competition across the telecommunications industry.
David Havyatt, Unwired's Manager of Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, told PC World Australia that the whole announcement — including the regulatory reforms — "poses more questions for Telstra management than anyone else". He added that overall, the industry is being asked whether it can envision a different future to its past.
The regulatory reform discussion paper "is the start of the most wide ranging review initiated in the sector in nearly twenty years", said Havyatt, commenting that the paper covers the full range of issues from consumer protections to economic regulation.
In addition to the issue of the potential split of Telstra, the reform paper also proposes addressing investment issues arising from cross-ownership of fixed-line and cable networks, and introducing more effective rules requiring telephone companies to make connections and repairs within set time frames.
According to the federal government, the regulatory reform paper arose due to a wide range of stakeholders, including telecommunications carriers, expressing concerns about the effectiveness of the current regime.
The government stated that it does not favour any specific reform option and is simply committed to ensuring that the regulatory framework in this sector is effective in promoting the long term interests of end-users. The government is seeking submissions by 3 June 2009, before making final decisions and introducing legislation into the Parliament.
A copy of the Regulatory Reform discussion paper and further information is available on the home page of Senator Stephen Conroy.