Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Telstra as my PR machine

A journalist asked my boss today, "since when has Telstra been your PR machine?"

He was referring to an item from Telstra today which seeks support for Telstra's regulatory stance on the basis of criticisms we made in a submission to the ACCC.*

Interestingly in the podcast with the Telstra item they claim I said that the ULL pricing decisions were "preventing" us making an investment, rather than the regime was "working against" the investment.

The Unwired submission covered other matters, including that the ACCC had erred in granting exemptions to Telstra ffrom the WLR and LCS services. This error was compounded by their using the continuing high prices of fixed to mobile calls to justify not further dropping MTAS charges. Seemlessly in his "interview" Mr Quilty goes on to describe the position of Stephen King on the same decisions, this time in praise of Mr King's somewhat unsurprising statement that he disagrees with the Australian Competition Tribunal overturning that decision. I've shared with Stephen my views in brief on his blog.

Finally, Mr Quilty goes on to outline the "agenda" that Telstra will be persuing this year, referring to the "Global Access Partners" approach. Mr Quilty has spoken of this before but not revealed that GAP isn't some global network of thinkers but is instead a private company associated with Peter Fritz. Another company in that association is Kiah Research that made a submission on the regulatory requirements of the NBN.

It has remained fascinating to me that the Kiah Research submission bears such a striking resemblence to the GAP "taskforce" report. I have asked GAP who constituted the taskforce but have been advised that as it met under the Chatham House rule that the names of participants would not be disclosed.

At least the Kiah Research submission (and a final version of the GAP paper they sent to me) included the acknowledgement of the assistance of Concept Economics and the book (that was then only forthcoming) by Henry Ergas titled Wrong Number. My assessment of that book has been published in a review for the Telecommunications Journal of Australia.

I would like to think we can make reasoned contributions to the regulatory debate without having those stances co-opted by Telstra in its desperate search for credibility. As I said back in April 2007, "Telstra is like a giant broken washing machine - the only cycle that works is spin."

* Note at the time of writing our submission had only been posted to the ACCC in the context of the MTAS pricing principles and not in relation to the ULLS decision, which is whre it garnered the most comment.

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