back to article Aus regulator seeks tweaks to Telstra NBN plan

Australia’s competition regulator has pushed a pawn in the telco regulation chess match, soliciting industry comment on Telstra’s first draft of its structural separation regime. In issuing its 200-page-plus discussion paper ,the Australian Competition and Consumer said its “preliminary view” is that the current undertakings …


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  1. Graham Wilson

    The Telstra/NBN plan is already an almighty stuff-up.

    Any objective examination of the NBN implementation/deployment strategy has to conclude that these 'structural' problems originated with the original sale (privatisation) of the once government owned telco, Telstra, by successive Australian governments, both Liberal and Labor.

    1. In an outrageous grab for money, governments sold off Telstra in its entirety, which essentially consisted of:

    (a) a retail division;

    (b) telephone exchanges and other technical infrastructure and;

    (c) cableways and network rights of way (cables, trenches, street ducts etc.) that stretch across Australia and which took over 130 years to build.

    2. They sold Telstra off to 'mum and dad' investors and other small shareholders of Australia who were duped into believing they were getting a good deal when in fact they're were sold a poisoned chalice (it was anything but a good deal).

    3. Selling off the cableways and rights of way meant that other Telcos, Optus and Vodafone etc. (who governments invited to compete with the once monopolistic Telstra), now had to go begging to Telstra for access to the cableways/distribution network. Naturally, Telstra used its monopoly over the cableways to screw the competition. Essentially, Australian communications prices were held much higher than the world average as there was stuff-all real competition with Telstra still effectively a monopoly.

    3.1 The blindingly obvious alternative would have been for Telstra's cableways to come under the ownership of a Cableway Authority that was owned and controlled by BOTH the government and all major competing Telcos. This would have minimised and optimised communications network costs for the nation as a whole. By selling network distribution to telcos at wholesale, all would have been on a level playing field.

    [Remember, Australia has a population of only 21.8 million--only one third of that of the UK [61.8m] spread over an area the size of Europe, so optimizing the network installation over such an area is of paramount importance if costs are to be minimised. In the Australian context, running duplicated, physically paralleled communications networks across the country is the stuff of lulu-land and or charlatans. Down here, even the local sheep look intelligent.]

    4. Nevertheless, the way out of this bind was for Optus and Vodafone to build their own networks which they did. But due to the enormous size of the Australian Continent, they still had to rely on Telstra for access to the traditional POTS network and its cableways for access to anywhere that wasn't densely populated--and that's most of the country!

    5. After years of ineffective competition something had to be done to fix the almighty stuff-up. Voilà the National Broadband Network (NBN) was born and would be THE saviour--the solution of which the government would invest many billions.

    6. Trouble was Telstra still owned the cableways! So what could the government now do? Well, it could nationalise Telstra (or at least that part of it), but nationalising is out of favour worldwide these days and Oz pollies would look even sillier on the world stage if they did, so they had no other option other than, in effect, to buy it back--err well sort of. It's the complicated deal that's the subject of this news story.

    7. What must be remembered and is key to this story is that the all-up cost of the NBN will cost MANY TIMES MORE than if the Telstra cableways had been kept by the government (that's to say only items (a) and (b) should have been sold off).

    8. For those of you who think this is a simplistic analysis as new fibre to the homes is new infrastructure and would've added to the cost, it's true, it would have. However, Telstra is extending its already extensive fibre network and has been doing so for years. Had the status quo continued (and simply been transferred on to a Cable Authority) then fibre to the homes would have been the end product of a naturally evolving infrastructure that was first discussed, planned and even trialled as early as the mid 1970s (in tests in Sydney's eastern suburbs).

    9. We must not lose sight of what has really happened. Through sheer ineptitude, incompetence and a disregard for the Australian people, successive disingenuous Australian governments have committed treason against its citizenry by:

    (a) forcing telcos competing against Telstra to double up with parallel competing network infrastructures of their own instead of sharing the existing cableways infrastructure--for which the Australian public ultimately has to pay, and;

    (b) concocting the NBN strategy to both 'hide' the original sell-off fuck-up and to justify its reversal with the expenditure of many extra billions of dollars over and above that necessary had the Telstra cableways remained in government hands.

    This is not just an Australian scandal but also a worldwide one, yet it's received little international publicity. I suspect the reason why even you muckraking journalists have missed the big-picture view is that even you have succumbed to the government's carefully orchestrated NBN propaganda.

    A point to remember: treason of such magnitude, had it been committed 70 years ago in WWII, would, most likely, have had the perpetrators with their backs to the wall.

    Those accountable should still be held responsible. A Royal Commission would be a good place to start.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      But how do we stop making it an even bigger stuff up?

      Pointing fingers at the past is not going to work. As you noted *both* sides of politics have got blood on their hands at this point.

      I think your analysis otherwise is pretty spot on, although I'd even question if selling part b (the exchanges) was a good move. There are parallels to be drawn with the privitisation of electricity and gas retailers.

      So if we can't undo the past, and what we desperately need is (a politically acceptable) Nationalisation of the cableways, then the NBN seems (on paper) to be one of the better options. Unfortunately this round of "structural seperation" of Telstra seems to be about as weak as previously mooted proposals and looks very likely to achieve further lockin for Telstra, rather than levelling the playing field. And we the Taxpayers will pay through the nose, both Publically in a multi-billion cash payment to Telstra, and Privately in continued monopolistic pricing.

      I really really want to see Telstra get broken apart, but the NBN is looking less and less fit for purpose.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    After the sell off the government wants to kill Telstra now it has its money

    After the sell off the government wants to kill Telstra now it has its money and screw mom and pop investors who bought the shares from the government.

    While Telstra was a bad ex-govt organisation attitude, only Australia Post remains as nasty and anti-customer focused as Telstra was.

    Now the fat mexican had his ass kicked back to the United States and the new guy is in, they have been working on improving customer service and simplifying everything so everyone can understand everything. Free cash is building up and the stock exchange is taking notice.

    And now the Gov't wants everything from Telstra for its new NBN Telco, erm.... make that Broadband Provider and then wants the only thing they leave Telstra with, mobile phone business cut off from competing with NBN and keeping competition running and prices down for Australians.

    NBN called me up the other day about the new mobile service in my area which is on the edge. They said they could get me 12Mbps service..... maybe.... no guarantee.... wireless....

    I told them Telstra offers 21Mbps service already and have been advertising for ages.... The NBN guy on the phone was surprised and unaware.

    Typical government organisation! So out of touch with reality and the people.

    Meanwhile all the regional/rural promises are scrapped, anyone not in a major city is on their own cast off on the dregs of internet access and by the day NBN offers less and less to the bulk of Australia which was the whole reason the NBN is around, to improve internet for people outside of cities.

    And now that assholes give city people high speed internet and nothing for everyone else in this country.

    Pack of liars!!!

    Get that bloody Ranga out of Canberra now!

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