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Tech Talk Radio Show 38 of 2009
Transmission date: September 21, 2009

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Ep 38: Bigbond signs up users to Mobile Broadband service without consent, Optus tells customers who they can and can't call, Communications reforms, The splitting of Telstra, and real time traffic for Google maps (Latitude)

September 21 , 2009

It seems the party’s over for Australia’s incumbent Telco Telstra, with the Federal Government announcing a massive overhaul to regulations surrounding Australia’s telecommunications industry.  Not so long ago, Telstra’s ex CEO Sol Trujillo with the three Amigos by his side had Australia by the “Short and Curlies” with the monopolistic strangle hold they had over the country, but with the changing of the guard, heralded by the arrival of a new CEO, David Thodey, came the cessation of hostilities between Telstra and the government.

The government had finally put the genie back into its bottle, and this week announced a series of reforms starting with a call to Telstra to voluntarily separate its wholesale and retail arms, a call which has been welcomed by ACCC boss GRAEME SAMUEL who said that this was the greatest reform to the telecommunications industry in 2 to 3 decades.

The reforms announce by the government last week include Telstra being asked to structurally separate or have a form of separation imposed upon it by law. If Telstra failed to separate voluntarily it would be banned from future wireless spectrum auctions should it not separate or sell off its HFC cable network or its interest in Foxtel
Amongst the reforms:

  • The ACCC given new powers to regulate wholesale access to Telstra's network and hand out competition notices without prior consultation.
  • Minister Conroy would be given exclusive power to change the requirements of the Universal Service Obligation (USO), with a capacity to fine Telstra up to $10 million for not meeting such conditions.
  • The ACCC would be given capacity to issue on-the-spot fines for breaches of 'consumer safeguards'.
  • Also Carrier licenses no longer required for operators with revenue less than $25 million per annum.

 ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel, was asked, who are the big winners out of the proposed breakup of Telstra - consumers or shareholders.

Comparing three previously government owned entities which have been privatized over the past 20 years, the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Telstra, if share prices are anything to go by, the CBA and Qantas are enjoying a positive growth, while Telstra continues to slide. Economists say that Telstra shares of any flavor, T1, T2, or T3 are quite possibly the worst investment anyone could make. Some say that this can be blamed on the uncertainty of the telecommunications sector, which ironically is driven by the Federal Government and the bloody mindedness of the previous Telstra chain of command.

While the spin the Government is applying to this new regulation is painting Conroy as “The most reforming Communications minister for the past few decades”, the reality is, Conroy is still looking to filter the internet in this country and as a result, slow the net by up to 80% in a worst case scenario. One might ask is Conroy Dr Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, or maybe he’s the new Messiah of Australian telecommunications…

Also on the show this week:

  • Adam looks at the hand Conroy’s dealt Telstra,
  • Google maps now has live traffic information for Australian cities
  • Are we on the verge of a malware epidemic
  • A Sydney hosting company to charge by the kilowatt
  • Bigbond signs up users to Mobile Broadband service without consent,
  • and Optus tells customers who they can and can't call