At ATUG 1998 Paul Budde Communication was represented by associate, Sue Grant. Together with Sue we have analysed this important Australian event and have compiled the following report. The focus, of course, was on the opening session of the conference, starring:-
· Douglas Campbell – Group Managing Director Carrier Services Telstra.
· Chris Anderson – CEO Optus.
· Steve Liddell – President WorldCom (SE Asia)
· Larry Williams – CEO AAPT
All speakers (except for Telstra) seem to be of the same opinion – the industry is spending too much time in court instead of getting on with the job of open competition. Chris Anderson gave an impressive talk with the clear message – let’s get out of the courtroom and on with open competition, openly criticising Telstra for its anti-competitive behaviour; AAPT and WorldCom whole-heartedly agreed with him. Larry Williams ‘joked’ that they had no interconnect agreements with Optus — they had papers on the table with Telstra but Optus had not offered anything yet. Optus elaborated on the fact they had accepted a deal with Telstra (rather reluctantly) about local calls being 19-22cts. Telstra again emphasised its willingness to co-operate with the industry, but notably absent here was the company’s CEO Frank Blount. A year ago it was the boss himself who gave exactly the same message. You might recall my critical response to his speech in my ‘Read my lips’ editorial. Mr Blount was angry about that and we published his response in the following issue of our newsletter. However, my criticism/ cynicism has proved to have been warranted and it did not go unnoticed at the conference that not much of Frank Blount’s promises at ATUG 97 had been kept. Doug Cambell’s speech not only followed Frank Blount’s speech from 1997, but also David Stokes McKeon’s presentation at SPAN 96, and similar promises of wholesale services for SPs by other Telstra managers such as David Rolls, Martin Turner and David King over the proceeding years – all of these promises well documented in our newsletters and reports.
Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, indicated that his government is willing to amend the current legislation if he has proof that there is a need for this. He stated at ATUG that he didn’t have this proof. Telstra totally agreed with this but all the other parties argued during the conference for changes to the Act. However, it will be very hard for the Minister to continue to resist legislative changes as the ACCC and others maintain that it is clear that the current self-regulatory approach is not delivering the competitive changes foreshadowed by the Minister in the 1996 Telecommunications Act (see also next article).
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