Labor MP Brian Mitchell asked the NBN Co's chief financial officer Stephen Rue: "I want to be crystal clear, are you saying that if somebody lives in the centre of Hobart and they are on a 50 [Mbps] bundled service, they are paying $45 wholesale and they move out to my electorate and get a fixed wireless tower on the new bundled service you’re talking about, they’ll be paying $65 wholesale? Is that in essence what you’re saying?"
To this, Rue responded: "If the retail provider chooses to purchase a bundled 50/20 product from us, that will be $65, yes."
Earlier, Rue had told the panel that the NBN Co would launch new fixed wireless discount bundles to ISPs on 20 August.
Rue also indicated that discussions were proceeding on prices for a plan that took in the maximum speed available on fixed wireless at about the same price point, adding that this would take about nine months to complete.
Labor Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Stephen Jones said this kind of price differential indicated that the digital divide was not being bridged.
They said data released by the ACCC showed that nine in 10 regional households on the fixed-wireless network would have to pay this extra $20 if they took a 50/20Mbps plan.
“This is a very troubling development. The NBN was supposed to bridge the digital divide – not create a new one,” Rowland said.
Added Jones: “Because of his failures, the Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) now wants regional Australians to pay $20 more per month than he would have to pay in Point Piper for the same service. It’s just not fair."
They said under Turnbull, "we have a second-rate NBN that is $20 billion over budget and four years behind schedule. It’s no wonder Australians are being lumped with higher prices, slower speeds and less reliable service."
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement that Labor had claimed that NBN Co intended to charge more for fixed wireless services compared to fixed line services.
"This is not the case. This will not occur. NBN Co engages in ongoing consultation with retailers about products and pricing," he said in a statement..
"NBN Co has responded to retailers by introducing new products and lower prices on a number of occasions. NBN Co is embarking on a fresh round of product consultations but have made no decisions."
He said the company offered equivalent pricing on comparable fixed line and fixed wireless products and the Federal Government would ensure that this continued.
"The government recognises the importance of ensuring affordable broadband is available to regional Australia. That’s why the Turnbull Government is investing more in regional telecommunications than ever before."