Bureaucrats approve of Telecom's talkfest plans but ISPs remain suspicious

, posted: 17-Jun-2006 15:33

On Friday, Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung sent out a letter to the incumbent's wholesale customers in which she proposes to set up two industry working parties that would hammer out technical details and an implementation schedule for services about to be regulated.

These include local and sub-local loop unbundling, voice lines and the enhanced Unbundled Bitstream Service (UBS) that features so-called Naked DSL that lets customers buy broadband only service without having to purchase a telephone one on top like they do now.

Gattung says the goal behind the initiative is to bring forward delivery of the new services "as fast as possible". ISPs, customer representatives, the Commerce Commission and the Ministry of Economic Development are all invited to join the working groups Gattung says. Telecom promises to share all reasonable information needed for the working groups to succeed (but doesn't define what "reasonable" means in this context).

Telecom won't run the working groups however. Gattung says that role should go to an independent facilitator that all parties are comfortable with.

No further details such as a schedule for the formation of the working groups and when they're expected to be finished was given however

First out of the blocks responding to Telecom's proposal was Telecommunications Commissioner Douglas Webb. He welcomes the initative, and says he urged Telecom in May to get on with it, and roll out the new services to wholesale customers before it was forced to do so by the Telecommunications Act changes. Saying the proposal has the potential to improve broadband services more quickly, Webb offers up the Commission's assistance with it.

InternetNZ is fizzing at the bung at the prospect of industry consulation, with Executive Director Keith Davidson calling it a great idea. His organisation is looking forward to taking part in the process.

ISP Slingshot's Annette Presley, who has campaigned to break up Telecom's local loop monopoly, is less enthusiastic however. She say that there have been industry working parties endlessly debating key issues such as co-location of equipment and number portability for more than five years. Presley instead wants Telecom to commit to delivering real outcomes for customers - in the next 90 days.

Callplus CEO Martin Wylie was quoted in the Herald saying the proposal is just a PR stunt and that he would be appalled if people support it. Ihug CEO Mark Rushworth thinks the move is a positive step, but fears it that without clear objectives and timeframes, the working groups could deteriorate into a talk fest.

Is Telecom's proposal genuine, or a clever sop to the Wellington bureaucracy that will lead to further delays in delivering broadband? It's impossible to say but if the past is anything to go by both the Commissioner and InternetNZ, whilst understandably excited at the idea of taking part in further bureaucratic orgies, should turn down their enthusiasm a few notches.

We shouldn't forget that almost a decade of regulatory talks have led to no discernible results apart from high fees paid to the people who took part in them. More of the same instead of action isn't the right way forward.

Other related posts:
The problem with VDSL2, part 2
The problem with VDSL2
The mysterious Dynamic Line Management on VDSL2

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