Monday, August 31, 2009

The NBN and ... phone books

In matters relating to the NBN David Thodey has been reported in Communications Day as saying "One of the big things for me personally is to get Telstra to a position that we have less regulation and more freedom. Because, living in this environment where we are constantly regulated, is not a good place to be."

Telstra has been on about regulation a long time, and mostly it is about economic regulation (access to their network or anti-competitive conduct). but there is a host of social regulation whose genesis was a desire that with the introduction of competition everything would change but nothing would.

The littany of this stuff is huge and in the NBN exercise we do need to get rid of it. One area to look at is the whole directory area. Firstly we should follow this lead and make delivery of the phone book an opt-in activity rather than automatic. We could also move away from the idea of free directory assistance since there are online versions.

These are just some of the more minor.

But this also gives me the chance to talk about the launch of ACCAN on 3 September (this post took a while to write!) I like the idea that ACCAN's focus will be on "making the market work for consumers". Where there challenge lies is in trying to explain why they think the market doesn't work.

I have my own views - one of which is an almost Galbraithian belief that firms do manipulate customers - but more aptly decribed in Havyatt's Aphorism "marketing is the set of activities of the firm designed to ensure that economists assumptions of the free market do not apply".

If ACCAN believes the rhetoric they need to espouse a theory of markets - I suspect they don't and judging by their performance thus far it is the same tired collection of special purpose interventions by regulation, not serious market design that they have in mind.

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