The Australian broadband network continues to grow rapidly despite the current "noise and bluster" about telecommunications competition and access regulation, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.*
The two questions which needed to be answered in relation to the further development of the network were: what form will this network ultimately take and who will own it, Mr Samuel said.
"At present, around 91 per cent of the population is connected via the copper network to local exchanges offering ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband, with speeds of up to 8 Mbps to 20 Mbps.
"Increased competition has spurred carriers, including Telstra, to roll out ADSL2+ services. These are now available to around 46 per cent of households.
"In addition, mobile broadband is now available to 98 per cent of the population."
Based on ABS figures, household broadband penetration has now reached 42 per cent - an increase of around 130 per cent over the past 18 months.
"This suggests broadband is booming," Mr Samuel said.
"But despite this, Telstra argues we are in a 'broadband drought'.
"If that's the case, there is a relatively easy way for Telstra to increase the availability of higher speed broadband to Australians", Mr Samuel said.
"We now know from Telstra's recent market briefing that it would not take much for Telstra to 'flick the switch', as I've been calling on them to do, and extend ADSL2+ coverage to allow around 90 per cent of the Australian population to have access to broadband speeds up to 20mps. In fact, Telstra has indicated it can turn on ADSL2+ in as little as 48 hours.
"Telstra argues that without regulatory certainty, it cannot offer ADSL2+ in exchanges where its competitors do not already offer this service. However there is a very easy way for Telstra to receive absolute regulatory certainty - by asking for an exemption from regulation for ADSL2+.
"Let me be perfectly clear: if the ACCC is satisfied that an exemption should be granted, it will not force Telstra to give access to its competitors to this particular service.
"You can't get much more certainty than that."
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