Amid extraordinary change and stronger than ever consumer demand for better connectivity, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims invited the telecommunications industry to have its say on regulatory issues.
At the CommsDay Congress held in Melbourne today, Mr Sims said the Australian telecommunications industry continues to undergo changes relating to rapidly evolving technology, structural change, product innovation, and changing consumer preferences.
“While the ACCC stays abreast of the changing environment to ensure our regulatory decisions are in the best interests of consumers, we occasionally need to take stock to identify emerging issues to ensure that our regulatory framework keeps pace with the rate of change,” Mr Sims said.
He said the ACCC’s new market study into the sector will examine a wide range of issues in communications markets to provide a strong overview of the changing telecommunications landscape.
“A key outcome will be whether the current form and level of regulation is appropriate.”
Mr Sims also said it is time to re-examine the need for declaring a domestic mobile roaming service, but stressed the ACCC had not formed any views.
“On the one hand, we understand that mobile coverage and choice of mobile service provider and competitively priced retail offers are important issues for consumers living and working in regional areas.”
“On the other hand, the ACCC is well aware the mobile network operators have all made significant investments in their mobile networks. We also understand there are real economic challenges for investing in mobile networks in some areas of Australia, and we understand the importance of incentives for continued investment,” Mr Sims said.
In the second part of his speech, Mr Sims discussed the ACCC’s consultation on broadband speeds advertising and information for consumers.
“We asked for comment because we believe there is a distinct lack of clear information about broadband performance in advertising and other material available to consumers; and there may be a range of factors contributing to this,” Mr Sims said.
“There have been suggestions from industry, however, that consumers have unrealistic expectations about broadband speeds. Let me be clear; I think that industry advertising has contributed to this problem.”
Mr Sims said a fundamental advantage of the ACCC’s proposed Broadband Monitoring Program is to avoid disputes over whether poor performance is the fault of the NBN, or ISPs.
“With so much being spent on the NBN we need to know if it is delivering, or whether problems are due to ISPs purchasing insufficient capacity to service their customers.”
Mr Sims also spoke about competitive broadband networks and explained the regulatory approach to the Local Bitstream Access Service and the Superfast Broadband Access Service.
“The ACCC considers that non-NBN network operators should not be constrained from deploying networks in competition with NBN Co, unless there are particular circumstances which overwhelmingly suggest it would not be in the long-term interests of end-users,” Mr Sims said.
“I urge all of you to engage with the ACCC as we address some of these complex, fascinating and vital telecommunications issues,” Mr Sims said.
The Chairman’s speech is available: Keynote Address: CommsDay Congress
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