The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and its new chairman, Rod Sims, have allowed their pro-competition charter to be sacrificed on the altar of broadband politics.
The decision to allow Optus to be paid to withdraw access to the HFC cable that reaches well over 1.4 million customers, destroys competition in broadband, restricts a cheaper option for state-owned and vulnerable NBN, and means that the choice other countries have between fast HFC cable models and NBN fibre connections is denied Australians.
Next the ACCC will pretend it’s OK for NBN to pay $20 billion over time to Telstra for closing down copper and the HFC cable as channels for broadband.
Again, a travesty in terms of what the ACCC should be about – promoting competition, not euthanasia of telecommunications assets.
This article first appeared in The Australian Financial Review, 31 May 2012
Auctions of “property rights” are a valid way of governments extracting value for the community from public assets, such as minerals, bandwidth and oceans. A recent example is Senator Conroy’s Dec 2011 proposal to auction the 800MHz bandwidth used by Telstra and Vodafone should they not agree to the $1.4 billion fees proposed by the Minister to be paid by the two companies for renewal of their licenses in 2013.