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Roaming: Old friend ACCC comes to Telstra's aid again

Every time it looks like consumers will be able to get away from the handcuffs that Telstra has around telecommunications in the country, along comes the ACCC and gives the dominant telco breathing space.

Today's decision to forbid other telcos from using Telstra's roaming facilities means only Telstra can provide customers in some areas with coverage.

The ACCC, which is supposed to understand the concept of a level playing field, has sadly fallen short this time.

The fact that Telstra's share price rose by 19 cents after the ACCC decision is an indication of just how much the telco, no matter how much it dominates the market, is dependent on the government to hold it up.

A single government policy declaration has sufficed to move the share price up by 5%.

Most of Telstra's infrastructure that gives it such a big advantage in the telecommunications space has been built using taxpayers' money.

Yet many of those same taxpayers have to put up with the whims and terrible service of the company if they happen to live in areas that only it can service.

The declaration of roaming services would have given the green light for telcos to access infrastructure belonging to other telecommunications providers and to offer services in areas not covered by their own networks.

This would have been the best for consumers, even as Australia moves towards increasing broadband and mobile penetration to areas which hitherto had been black spots.

But then the ACCC continues to have something of a blind spot when it comes to Telstra, as it did when it insisted on 121 points of interconnect for the NBN. That ensured that only the big players would be able to build in everywhere, and shut most of the middle- and lower-tier telcos out of the picture.

Them that has the gold makes the rules. Sadly, that still appears to be the rule in Australia in 2017.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.