Australian ISPs squabble over cheap DSL access: Telstra

SYDNEY – Internet Service Providers are drawing swords over access to dirt-cheap exchanges, according to Telstra, in a display reminiscent of a “David Jones fire sale”.

The claims are a rebuttal to yesterday’s Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) decision which ruled the country’s biggest telco must provide reasons for denying competitors access to exchanges.

The regulator forced the telco to provide detailed records of DSL provisioning through monthly access reports detailing its reasons for restricting access to exchanges and the amount of space it allocates to itself.

It will also be required to publicly reveal its queueing lists of access seekers, their position and progress through the lists. The mandate comes after a series of complaints from ISPs that claimed Telstra was denying access to its exchanges due to “insufficient space” and long delays with its queueing system.

Optus supported the ACCC decision, and used the mandate to attack Telstra’s case for minimal regulation in the National Broadband Network (NBN). “Here is tangible proof that the international experts Telstra rolled out to support its cause for less regulation of the NBN were very mistaken in their belief that there is no non-price discrimination in Australia,” a spokesperson said.

“This latest shot across Telstra’s bow shows that Telstra’s discriminatory behavior continues to blight the industry.”

Telstra spokesperson Jeremy Mitchell said the ACCC ruling was “yet another time consuming, expensive process that does nothing to help consumers”.

“The ACCC is over-reaching its powers again where no problems exist. After listening to customer concerns, we have already reviewed the exchange access process and made changes to ensure access seekers have more information about capped exchanges,” Mitchell said.

“Our competitors are clambering to install equipment in suburban exchanges because of the ridiculously low prices that the ACCC has set for [the Unbundled Local Loop and Line Sharing Service]. Any delays are not deliberate and this process won’t fix them.

“In one Telstra exchange there are now 11 sets of competitor equipment. Two years ago there would have been two or three.”

Mitchell urged the government to focus its attention on the NBN rather than DSL technology.

Proponents of structural separation for the NBN builder argue Telstra is eager to fast-track the NBN to avoid further ACCC intervention because tender documents require DSL customers to migrate to the Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) network.