Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The World Won't Listen 2: Telstra has no friends

Communications Day, the telecomms industry newsletter, first broke the story.

Telstra's public campaign website, Now We Are Talking, was having the opposite effect. It had to stop a poll which had everyone blaming Telstra for the telco blues.

To be fair, there was some hacking involved. But if you look at the regular polls it ran, Telstra seems to be up for near universal opprobium. The various forms of user feedback on that site have all been heavily dumping on Telstra, and it's surprising they don't give up the whole venture as a bad joke.

The big fight is over access to Telstra's networks, and in particular the rollout of FTTN - [optical] Fibre To The Home for communications services such as broadband, tv, and phone.

When the telecommunications market was first opened up for competition, Telstra was owned by the government - ie the Australian people. The relative size of the players meant it remained a monopolistic market, and in such a circumstance it's best to have the monopoly in the hands of the public.

But now that Telstra is effectively no longer in the hands of the public, it is hard to justify its monopolistic position. It is also hard to justify - in the circumstance - the lack of ownership separation between infrastructure and service provision.

But that's where we end up now. And the monopolist is complaining about government regulation, and is trying in a number of different ways to circumvent that regulation.

It's hard to keep track of the intricacies of the stoush, but the kernel revolves around the pricing of access to that infrastructure. And the nett result is delay in investing in the fundamental 21st century communications infrastructure Australia needs.

Telstra's own attempt at public campaigning has yielded the risible result that despite its dominant market position, it doesn't have many friends.

16-May-07 Update: More proof that Telstra has no friends: a war of words with the government too.
Note, too, they took Optus to court over an ad that compared products, and found Optus' to be far more generous. Telstra lost.

29-May-07 Update: In his latest newsletter, industry analyst Paul Budde has also made the point that the only rational solution is to separate Telstra's service provision and infrastructure - and that the government is thereby the only player that can break the current impasse over pricing of access to infrastructure.

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