Telstra Holds Off on Scrapping Copper


Telstra, the partly-privatised government telecommunications carrier, has bowed to public pressure from the Internet
service provider (ISP) industry and delayed its plans for a year to
discontinue a popular copper-based connectivity product.

Permitted Attached Private Lines (PAPLs) are circuits of copper lines,
typically between office buildings, that were being used by ISPs to carry
Internet traffic by running various flavours of DSL (Digital Subscriber
Loop) technology.

Telstra notified its ISP customers last month that it would be extending
the roll-out of its digital network to by replacing some of those copper
wires used for PAPLs with optic fibre cables, meaning that after December
it could not guarantee that PAPLs could be used for DSL.

The lines were originally intended to act as alarm circuits for fire or
security purposes, and are priced at a tenth of the cost of the equivalent
connections on Telstra’s digital network.

Telstra now said that it will continue its digital roll-out, but in
situations where it breaks the continuity of a copper line, it will provide
an “equivalent service capability at the same cost as a PAPL.”
This guarantee lasts only until the end of September 1999, or when the
Australian Communications Industry Forum publishes standards for access to
Telstra’s network, the company said.

In other Telstra news, the Australian Federal Government has announced that
it intends to cap the universal service obligation (USO) cost at $253.32
million for the 1997/98 year, by industry agreement or by legislation.
The USO is a payment made by all other telecommunications carriers in
Australia to Telstra, to compensate it for the loss it makes on running the
national network that the others rely on.

Telstra had made a claim of $1.8 billion for the USO, but the government’s
figure closely resembles the $250 million agreed to for each of the
previous three years.

The previous fees were jointly paid by Optus and Vodafone, who were the
only carriers at the time, but after deregulation of the market in July
1997 there are now more than a dozen licensed carriers who will share the
USO cost burden.

The Australian Communications Authority will determine the relative costs
using a methodology it is in the process of developing.

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