Monday, 30 October 2017 18:02

AUDIO INTERVIEW: ACCC Chairman Rod Sims talks CVC, speed tests, NBN enforcement and 'success' Featured


Coming into the job six years ago, ACCC chair Rod Sims was thrust into the existing NBN mess, with a new report which we spoke about in our interview, including defining what NBN success really means.

Today's big news has been the release of the ACCC's draft Market Study on communications, which iTWire reported on earlier today, and which I had my sarcasm filter on while writing about it. 

After all, the NBN was predicted to be a mess long before it was built, and yet it is only now that the ACCC is doing broadband performance monitoring tests and writing major comms market reports on.

One would have imagined these things would have been started long ago, but as they always say, better late than never.

That said, the current report is only a draft, which shows how slow the business of governing and regulation takes its time to wind through the corridors of parliaments and government departments, so if you're curious and want to make a submission – please take a look via the link above, and have your say!

You wouldn't be the only person or organisation to speak up regarding the ACCC's Market Study, with the Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC) and the Communications Alliance offering positive commentary, along with major telco Optus also having nice things to say.

I also asked Telstra what it had to say on the topic, seeing as everyone else had spoken, and its spokesperson referred me to the Communications Alliance comment, and stated that "we are evaluating the content of the ACCC Market Study and will submit our response to the ACCC by 8 December".

So, when the opportunity came up earlier today to talk to Sims over the phone, which is something I've never done despite writing many, many articles about the ACCC and its decisions over the years, I was very glad to do so.

It wasn't possible to do a video interview today - perhaps I'll be able to video interview Sims on a future occasion. Still, I was allowed to make an audio recording of our phone call, which is embedded below as a YouTube video (but without any image, naturally, just a black screen).

Here is that audio interview, after which I summarise the questions. Enjoy!

I started by introducing Sims and welcoming him to the programme.

I then asked about the new draft report itself, and what were some of the highlights from the 29 recommendations.

I moved onto when the last ACCC communications market study was conducted, or whether this was the first (which it was, at least in Sims' time at the organisation).

We then spoke about CVC costs, and whether the ACCC needed to set up an ACCCVC to sort this out once and for all, or not, and whether we'll still be talking about this problem in a year from now.

I then asked why it took until only just recently to start a "Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting programme" when the NBN was long predicted to be a disaster, from well before construction ever started?

I noted that people were talking about fraudband in the early 2000s with 256kbps connections, noting that problems with speed weren't a new thing.

We spoke about the definition of success when it comes to the NBN – perhaps a market return is NOT the definition of success, and perhaps success is providing as many people as possible with a fast and reliable NBN service?

I noted how Australia wastes billions on out-of-date submarines and jet fighters which only promise a return of keeping us safe, and yet real infrastructure of actual value to everyday Australians isn't being run properly, with NBN Co's Bill Morrow talking about protection – which I noted would be anti-competitive!

Sims had some interesting things to say here which you'll just have to listen to in the interview above to find out, but we discussed what success meant in the NBN equation, that's for sure.

I asked about the ACCC's "enforcement action to address serious or systematic failures" and asked what this meant, because there have been times the ACCC is seen to be toothless, so I wanted to know if he could guarantee the ACCC will finally have some real bite.

We then peered into the crystal ball – how did Sims think the Australian competitive landscape will look in a decade, and what were his thoughts on the NBN a decade hence?

I asked Mr Sims to share some great advice he has received in life to help him get where he is today, and asked him to share his final messages not just to iTWire readers, but to all Australians.

And that's where we ended the video – I wish the ACCC luck in finalising its report, and hope its powers can help steer the NBN back on course for the benefit of us all.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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