ACCC tells Telstra to share its lines

Telstra blasted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Friday after it ruled the telco must allow other service providers access to its high-speed copper network on commercial terms.

The ACCC declared line sharing or spectrum sharing services, citing a need for a more competitive broadband market. The ACCC's declaration means it will now regulate the high-speed copper service provided by Telstra. It also means consumers can use one carrier for broadband services and another for voice services on the same phone line simultaneously.

"The ACCC clearly believes it takes three to tango," said a Telstra spokesman. "In other words, we're dealing with wholesale customers direct, and they [ACCC] come and interfere.

"The ACCC has been deprived of wholesale disputes recently, so it latches onto this. We're mystified."

ACCC chairman, Professor Allan Fels said the ACCC recognised Telstra had already reached some commercially negotiated agreements, but also took into account difficulties that were continuing to be experienced by some substantial access seekers.

Yet Telstra said it had had no complaints from its spectrum sharing customers.

"This is just unnecessary. We're disappointed by the ACCC's intervention in a functional market," said the Telstra spokesman.

However, Fels said: "This gives broadband providers the freedom to focus on providing high-speed data services to consumers, such as the Internet, video-on-demand, and other multi-media applications.

"It is particularly important to recognise that so long as Telstra continues to recover the cost of its copper network through other avenues, the price of the line sharing service should not vary across different geographical regions", he said.

Fels said the decision was "in line with" decisions in the United States and countries in the European Union, which have previously moved to regulate line sharing services.

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Steven Deare

PC World
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