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Telecom competitors set 'ground rules' for broadband policy ahead of election

With elections approaching next year, rivals of Telstra have urged for strong controls on the rates charged by Telstra for access to its infrastructure.

"All policy must lead to the development of an industry structure that is conducive to maximising competition," the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) said in a policy statement released today.

"Competition is the best driver of consumer and national welfare. Policy must promote effectively competitive markets for the provision of national communications services."

The CCC is an industry association representing "non-dominant telecommunications carriers" in the fixed line, mobile, residential, corporate, government, voice and data markets. Members are: Macquarie Telecom, iiNet, NextGen, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, TransACT, Internode and Adam Internet--which is pending acquisition by Telstra.

The CCC and its members have lately been active raising competitive issues. Earlier this month, the coalition urged regulators to rein in Telstra's market power buying content. Also, CCC member Vodafone Hutchison Australia urged regulators to support policies that scale back what Vodafone sees as "regulatory favour" for Telstra, an allegation that Telstra has rejected.

On a media call, members of the CCC said that competitors hope to influence the political parties as they develop their broadband policy positions ahead of the 2013 elections. Elections are expected to be held at some point between August and November next year.

The CCC intends the regulatory principles as a set of "ground rules" against which politicians' broadband positions going into the elections can be measured, said the coalition's chairman, Matt Healy, on a media call.

The CCC isn't seeking or expecting changes, Healy said. "It's more about what would be the broadband policies and what would be the policies used to promote competition in fixed mobile."

Healy couldn't say if he expected one party's positions would likely be more in line with the CCC's principles than another. "The parties haven't released their policies," he said.

The CCC urged structural separation of facilities that show natural monopoly characteristics. In addition, government should regulate prices charged to competitors for access to the incumbent facilities, it said.

"Regulated prices should be based on established and consistent principles to promote the long-term interest of end-users, prevent monopoly rents and network 'gold plating'."

The CCC said government funding for telecom infrastructure in high-cost areas should go to multiple companies, not just the incumbent Telstra.

"Policy must avoid subsidies that entrench the dominance of the major incumbent and improve its market position," the CCC said. "For example, Government funding should not subsidise the expansion of Telstra mobile network coverage without establishing open access arrangements and equivalence principles consistent with those being implemented in fixed line network regulation."

Among other suggestions, the CCC said wholesale communications should be regulated on a national level and policy should not lock in old technology.

"Policy to upgrade existing fixed line networks must be based on structural separation of the monopoly element and specify a pathway to FTTP that enhances future competitive opportunities," the CCC said. "Any upgrade pathway must reflect the principle that all developments must lead to greater competition over time."

Computerworld Australia has contacted Telstra for comment.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia


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