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Optus: Google, eBay just as dangerous as network monopolies

CEO’s radical proposal: create a content access regime

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While Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) is still top-of-mind for Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan, he is also concerned how, in a more-connected world, content monopolies can be just as restrictive as network monopolies.

Speaking to the Media Connect “Kickstart” conference in Queensland’s Sanctuary Cove resort, O’Sullivan said that while he is worried about risks to retail competition on the NBN, he can also foresee much greater risks in the longer term – content and application monopolies.

Organisations like Google and eBay, O’Sullivan said, have demonstrated a “winner-takes-all” environment in Internet commerce. He said that for any company wanting to enter a market against a company like Google or eBay found itself facing a “huge cliff edge”.

“We need to think about [content] access in the Internet world in the same way as we provide it in the physical world,” O’Sullivan said. He proposes that Australia needs to consider whether the world of content needs access seeker mechanisms, as exist for physical networks.

The nut of O’Sullivan’s argument is that “physical” monopolies are regulated by access regimes. These include access to Telstra’s network; retailer access to electricity networks; rail operator access to railway networks, and so on. O’Sullivan believes that monopoly control of content is a challenge that needs to be debated and addressed today.

He admitted that the mechanisms for this haven’t yet been considered, but said the reason such a debate is necessary is partly so that mechanisms can be created.

O’Sullivan strayed into the world of the bleeding obvious by agreeing with NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley’s assertion that those who advocate wireless networks as an exclusive alternative for fibre don’t understand the technology: “The physics of the mobile network is such that we can never carry the same speed on wireless as on fibre,” he said. ®

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