AAPT chief executive Paul Broad today called on fellow telcos to stand up and “make noises” to protect competition in the new world order of the National Broadband Network.
Broad said the current telecommunications legislation — chunks of which was approved just days ago — was all about stopping and preventing competition, recreating a monopoly situation which the industry had fought to dismantle in the last 20 years.
He said competition at the infrastructure level was fundamental to the telco market. “My concern about today’s debate about infrastructure is we spent a lot of time in the last few weeks building up legislation to prevent competition,” he said. Then, referring to the uniform national wholesale price to be used by the NBN: “How can we offer a competitive product when we all face the same wholesale price?”
Broad said the industry should look back at past experiences to avoid future mistakes. He said that in the mid 1990’s his then-company Energy Australia tried to use energy infrastructure to drive a retail competitive outcome in parts of the market where it thought it could have been successful.
But, Broad said, the final result didn’t deliver. “We thought at that time we could actually build a multi-utility concept using energy infrastructure … that part failed,” he said. According to Broad, in the mid 1990’s, nobody predicted that competition could be at an infrastructure level. “Sometime we forget we have made a few mistakes in the past which might help think about the future,” he said.
Broad claimed the debate about the NBN and the “cherry-picking” provision that happened in the past weeks was all about re-establishing a monopoly, that the industry had already experienced 20 years ago. He said the industry had undertaken a significant transformation in the past two decades since competition entered the market and that the benefits of a competitive field have been “enormous”. For these reasons Broad called on the industry players to stand against the current NBN legislation.
“We industry should certainly have an argument about the fact we have all taken a pretty big journey in the last 20 years,” he said. “We all have investors and invested capital in our business that changed the nature of our business.”
Broad said competition was to the benefit of both telcos and consumers, stating that if it was true that the concept of having fast broadband might be appealing to consumers, being taxed for it might as well not make them happy. He said that AAPT today had over 11,000 km of fibre and that in the process of deploying fibre the telco has lost and won money, acknowledging that was part of the game of competition.
“I can’t tell you that it’s all been successful,” he said. “When you are in the private sector you take risk, you take risk and you invest”. He concluded that if NBN Co were to be a new monopoly, the Government should have just bought back Telstra from the private sector.
Image credit: Delimiter