Cost of TelstraClear campaign could reach $1m

What the TelstraClear CEO wants from the government

TelstraClear has spent around $750,000 on its advertising campaign opposing the Telecommunications Amendment (TSO Broadband and Other Matters) Bill.

“It is a pretty cheap campaign compared to others,” TelstraClear CEO Allan Freeth told Computerworld. “It might go as high as a million, I don’t know, that’s the best guess I can give you.”

Freeth was initially reluctant to tell Computerworld the cost of the advertising campaign – which was ramped up to included prime time television adverts last night – claiming commercial sensitivity. But he then decided that he had nothing to hide.

In addition to television advertising, there have been around 10 full page newspaper advertisements opposing the Bill. Freeth says the expense has not been budgeted for. “This is going to hurt at the end of the year, but we are a company that believes in speaking out and we believe in principle and we also know we run the risk of being misunderstood and being branded by that.”

Freeth says what he wants is for ICT Minister Steven Joyce to pay attention to the concerns expressed by what he calls “the coalition” – the 11 telcos and consumer groups that wrote to MPs raising concerns about the Bill and then suggested an alternative solution known as Special Access Undertakings.

“We’ve been greeted with a wall of silence by the Minister. I have personally written to him wanting, offering and requesting meetings. I haven’t had the courtesy of a No or Yes. I have had one letter from his office saying we have got your letter.”

He emphasises that he is not trying to hold Joyce to ransom, he just wants the Minister, or someone from his office, to listen to members of the coalition about their concerns. When asked directly by Computerworld, Freeth denied that the adverts are about scuttling the UFB build itself.

"Absolutely not and we made that clear from the start," he says.

So, if the viewer looks at the TV advertisement and says 'the UFB is not worth $1.5 billion of taxpayers money that is being put into it, let’s stop it', would TelstraClear see that as a success or a failure?

"I would see it as an unfortunate outcome of what was an obsession about one access mechanism. And again, that argument has been had. The problem is UFB is not about a network, that service can be provided by mobile and wireless," Freeth says.

"We have helped Northpower build a fibre network; we are providing services to it. We have long said they are in front of the demand curve. If that is what they want to do, fine. We have always said we’ll be a major customer of the UFB network if the rules are set right and the playing field is level.”

Computerworld has sought comment from ICT Minister Steven Joyce.

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