Telcos hail commission's slap on Telstra's ADSL hand

A move by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to generate more competition in the broadband ADSL space has hit the spot with industry players.

The ACCC last week branded Telstra's conduct in the space as anticompetitive and issued the telco with a 12-week deadline to alter the situation.

ACCC chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said Telstra is taking advantage of its ownership of the customer access network in not offering a true wholesale ADSL service, and that the telco was merely "re-badging" its BigPond products and selling them to competitors at uncompetitive prices.

Telstra's competitors have responded strongly to the move that could open up the opportunity for them to take court action to seek damages against Telstra, should it continue its anticompetitive conduct.

OzEmail announced its full support for the competition notice, with CEO Justin Milne saying that it is "in the best interest of Australians".

Milne said the current state of affairs is "retarding" the take-up of broadband in Australia, which he claims is ultimately affecting our national productivity. Milne outlined a number of ways in which Telstra had inhibited the rollout of DSL, including the minimal price gap between wholesale and retail offerings. He concluded, however, that all factors "amount to a disaster for Australians and Telstra's competitors, but allow Telstra to wring the last drop of blood out of its ISDN service which is one of the world's most expensive".

Excite@Home Australia concurred, with CEO Chris Chapman welcoming the the ACCC's action, believing it will "ultimately be to the benefit of all Australians seeking broadband services", by improving availability, choice and pricing.

Western Australian Internet service provider, iiNet responded in similar tone branding the move as a "major step forward in making high-speed Internet access a reality for all Australians". iiNet executive director Andrew Milner also noted the Productivity Commission's draft report on telecommunications competition regulation, which is due to be finalised later this month, which has recommended that effective removal of the ACCC's power to issue competition notices.

"Telstra's stance on its wholesale ADSL offering, and the ACCC's action today, make a strong argument for the retention of this vital component of Australia's telecommunications legislation," he said.

Broadband services company RequestDSL also responded strongly to the news, but added that the ACCC should go further and ensure that a mature wholesale market can develop amongst a number of facilities-based DSL providers, by enabling these wholesale DSL providers to access the copper-based customer access network on the same terms as Telstra.

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