ADSL2+ breaks regional drought

But broadband regulation still in doubt

Up to 952 exchanges across regional Australia will be ADSL2+ enabled after Telstra broke the regulatory stalemate with the federal government.

Almost 1.8 million of the country's most remote premises will have theoretical Internet speeds of up to 24Mbps within 48 hours, in which the telco will make 370 exchanges ADSL2+ enabled.

Another 132 exchanges serving 230,000 premises will receive the second generation technology within three weeks, and the remaining 405 DSLAMS will be streaming ADSL2+ within 200 days.

The telco previously refused to upgrade the regional exchanges, which many cases would simply require turning on the pre-existing ADSL2+ technology, because the government was mum on whether it would regulate wholesale third-party access to competitors.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he backed the somewhat ambiguous statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that arguments for ADSL2+ wholesale regulation are not strong enough.

"The ACCC has previously indicated that a compelling case has not been made for declaring and regulating third party access to a wholesale xDSL service," Conroy said in a letter to Telstra.

"As a result of this advice, I concluded that there is a high degree of regulatory certainty in relation to the ACCC's approach to wholesale ADSL2+ services.

Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo said the move indicates the government is averse to the regulation of broadband services.

"It is clear that the government understands the artificial impediments that have been holding back investment in broadband, and is prepared to act in consumers' best interests," Trujillo said.

"Regulatory forbearance will be good for consumers because it permits the rapid deployment of broadband; good for shareholders because Telstra will not be forced to resell to competitors services they can provide simply by choosing to invest their own capital.

"This simple act of the new government unlocks the potential of high-speed broadband for households and businesses around Australia."

Trujillo said Telstra will build a $4.1 billion open-access Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) network under the same model in which it will resell access on competitive terms.

Shadow communications minister Bruce Billson said the regulation stalemate was unnecessary and blamed the government for procrastinating on the issue.

"Given the repeated reassurances from the previous government and consistent public statements by [the] ACCC , Telstra accurately characterizes the claimed impediments to the ADSL2+ roll-out as 'artificial'," Billson said.

"The fiction that a legitimate barrier existed is further exposed in Senator Conroy's 'letter of comfort' which recognizes these matters as simply 'a decision by Telstra to switch on ADSL2+ services'.

Billson said Telstra heldoff the ADSL2+ deployments under the former government because it was concerned with regulatory and costing issues with its FttN network.

Click to e-mail your opinion to Darren Pauli.

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