Telstra Debacle Recalls Early Days of U.S. Service Provider Competition

By Kelly Teal Comments

Telstra, the fixed-line incumbent in Australia, may be forced to pay an approximately $33 million fine for refusing rivals access to its telephone exchanges.

The Sydney Morning Herald this week reported that Australian regulators have the right to impose fines of up to AUD10 million, or about $8.3 million, for each of the 27 times Telstra barred access to competitors wanting to install broadband equipment. However, that stiff a penalty isn’t expected. Telstra has admitted to mistakenly rejecting applications, the Herald reported, which means government officials may go easier on the service provider, to the tune of about $827,000 per incident.

Telstra blamed “junior staff” for the breach of law and said it has put personnel through additional training.

Still, lawyers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are not appeased. In a court-filed letter, the agency’s counsel said Telstra bears an “antagonistic” attitude toward regulations and harbors “a reckless disregard for its obligations,” according to the Herald.

Such allegations will ring familiar to American ears, conjuring up the early days of the competitive carrier industry when CLECs complained about problems such as drawn-out order implementation and messed-up billing. Australia passed its Telecommunications Act in 1997, one year after the U.S. Congress revised communications law to lay the groundwork for the CLEC sector.

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