Competition imperative for NBN success says anti-Telstra lobby group

Government’s NBN expert panel snubs seminar. British, Dutch models illustrate how to foster telco competition, structural separation.

The T4 group has made available on its Web site presentations made by economic and telecommunications industry experts at the T4 national broadband network regulatory seminar, held in Canberra last week.

T4, or Tell The Truth Telstra, is an initiative of more than a dozen top Australian ISPs and telco bodies aiming to improve competition in an environment they see as a Telstra monopoly.

The event was to be presented to Senator Conroy's expert panel tasked with assessing proposals for the regulatory framework and building of the national broadband network (NBN).

But executive director of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, David Forman, said attendees were shocked to discover that while representatives from Senator Conroy's office, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet were present, the NBN expert panel had snubbed the event.

"The department didn't let them come, they were invited," Forman said.

"The Minister actually sent his advisers along to listen, so he clearly saw the value of the event and of remaining informed in the debate. [But] it would be an absolute failure of responsibility by the department not to communicate this whole thing back to the panel. How they intend to do that, I don't know, it surprised everyone."

International speakers from the OECD, Dutch telco KPN and British Telecom, joined Australian economists and analysts to discuss regulation of the National Broadband Network and the future of telecommunications policy in Australia.

"The one theme that united everyone and was common across all speakers from around the world, is that the focus has to be on getting a set of regulatory arrangements in place that create more competition than we have today, not less," Forman said.

"To have a national broadband network is a terrific ambition, but a more important ambition is to have a NBN that results in a more competitive Australian telecommunications market place and therefore a more competitive economy."

Media buzz centred around a report presented at the T4 event by the Centre for International Economics that claimed the Australian economy would suffer and consumers would pay 15 percent more, or $897 million, for broadband services if Telstra won the contract to build and manage the NBN (see slide).

Telstra responded swiftly, calling the CIE report a bogus, dishonest distortion designed to delay the process.

Forman hit back at Telstra's dismissal of the report, saying that if the CIE's numbers are bogus it is Telstra's fault, because the CIE's calculations are based on build cost estimates the incumbent provided publicly to the market.

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