Tuesday, 28 March 2017 19:41

ACCC rejects NBN special access undertaking variations Featured

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The competition watchdog has rejected proposals by the builders of the national broadband network, NBN Co, to vary the Special Access Undertaking (SAU) which governs the prices and other terms on which it supplies wholesale broadband services to Internet service providers.

In a draft decision announced on Tuesday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission knocked back proposals by NBN Co to incorporate new technologies including fibre-to-the-node (FttN), fibre-to-the-building (FttB) and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC).

But, the Commission has left open the door for NBN Co to change its proposal to address its specific concerns.

If NBN Co does submit a new variation to its SAU, the ACCC will be required, by regulation, to consult stakeholders further.

The current version of the SAU only covers fibre-to-the-premises (FttP), fixed wireless, and satellite technologies.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that while the commission agreed with the overall approach by NBN Co to incorporate the additional technologies into the SAU, it still had concerns about some of the specific terms and conditions that NBN Co proposed to vary.

“Most of the changes proposed by NBN Co would remain in effect until the end of the SAU term in 2040. We need to be satisfied that the proposed changes are reasonable and in the long-term interests of end-users now, and will remain so over the term of the SAU," Sims said.

The Commission's primary concerns are:

  • Changes to service definitions that would allow future technologies introduced by NBN Co to be covered by the SAU without a further SAU variation.
  • Removing the definition "network boundary point" from service definitions.
  • Locking in provisions relating to "co-existence" and "remediation" for FttN and FttB services, which would allow NBN Co to provide services at lower data rates in certain circumstance, for the remainder of the SAU term.

Sims says that, as the ACCC can only accept or reject an SAU variation, its concerns mean that the draft decision is to reject the variation.

“However, we have provided clear guidance in the draft decision on how NBN Co can address these concerns and introduce these new technologies into the SAU.”

The ACCC is also seeking further views around the SAU pricing provisions that would apply to NBN services provided over these additional technologies.

And, in its draft decision the ACCC notes that the application of the price terms was not raised in its previous consultation paper on the SAU variation and further consultation would take place, specifically assessing the price terms and conditions to ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to comment.

The Commission is also consulting further on proposed changes to NBN Co’s rollout information commitments, with Sims noting that the ACCC is aware that NBN Co has recently implemented measures to increase the information it makes available to access seekers and the public.

The closing date for submissions on the draft decision on the SAU is 21 April.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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