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Monday, 14 July 2008 08:11

ACCC moves to speed rollout of ADSL networks

The ACCC has imposed a requirement on Telstra to give reasons when it refuses to allow competitors to install DSLAM equipment in Telstra exchanges so they can deliver broadband over their own networks.

Telstra's competitors have long complained about Telstra 'capping' its exchanges - telling those seeking to install equipment that there is no space available. The ACCC has now imposed a requirement on Telstra to provide information to substantiate its claim for capped exchanges.

However some competitors feel the new rules do not go far enough because they do not stipulate what, if any, action the ACCC will take verify the information that Telstra provides and to ensure that competitors get access to exchanges on an equal footing with Telstra. Furthermore they argue that Telstra should require permission to cap an exchange rather than simply justifying itself after the fact.

The rule is implemented in an ACCC record keeping rule that require Telstra to give monthly reports to the ACCC that contain information which includes details of Telstra decisions to cap and uncap exchanges and the amount of space in an exchange reserved by Telstra for its own anticipated future requirements. The record keeping rule also requires Telstra to report on the details of queued access seekers, their position in the queue, and any progress in the queue.

ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, said: "The ACCC believes that there is a strong need for independent oversight of Telstra's processes to cap exchanges to ensure that Telstra is held accountable and access seekers are not unreasonably denied access to Telstra exchanges. There is also a clear need to identify the exact cause of delays with Telstra's queuing system.
"The record keeping rule will assist the ACCC in carrying out its statutory functions under the access regime in the Trade Practices Act and provide confidence to access seekers investing in competitive DSLAM infrastructure about the accuracy of Telstra's processes."

However Steve Dalby, chief regulator officer of iiNet, told iTWire: "There is no independent oversight of the process by which Telstra grants itself exemption from giving us access to an exchange... [the rule] implies that the ACCC will do something about it if they are dissatisfied but it is only one step in the process."

He also suggested that, rather than declare an exchange to be full, Telstra should have to apply to the ACCC and have its application assesses by the ACCC or some independent body.

Dalby added that the operational separation regime, which was supposed to give competitors equivalence to Telstra, fell far short of achieving this. "Telstra does not have to follow the same rules as anyone else [to access exchanges'. They do not have get in the queue with everybody else and wail until someone else has finished before they can get access to the building. Telstra can look at some space and say 'we will have that' even if others have been in the queue for two years. Then that exchange suddenly becomes capped."

Access to Telstra facilities is covered by facilities access regulations, but Dalby said these covered more the technical aspects, not actually the right to access. "The facilities access regime is more about how you go about using  exchange space if you do get access: power loading and heat loadings etc...Access to exchanges is not a declared service it follows from the declaration of the ULL."

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