Wednesday, 01 April 2020 11:15

NBN Co, telcos get ACCC authorisation to co-operate during COVID-19 crisis Featured

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National Broadband Network operator NBN Co and five retail service providers have been authorised by the competition regulator the ACCC to work together on measures to keep telecommunications networks operating effectively during the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the interim authorisation a special working group formed by NBN Co and the RSPs will share information, coordinate strategies to manage congestion and take other steps to address significant demand changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the large numbers of people now at home during the day.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) - which will be an observer on the special working group - says authorisation allows the NBN Co and the RSPs to support consumers and small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic.

The coordinated effort by NBN Co and Australia’s five biggest telcos - Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison, TPG and Vocus - comes at the request of the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher.

The ACCC says the five RSPs and NBN Co have also sought urgent authorisation to provide support for consumers and small business customers experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19, “with the ultimate aim to ensure that consumers are able to stay connected to communications services throughout the pandemic”.

“Online services and connections are now more important than ever, as Australians seek to stay productive and engaged, undertake home schooling, telehealth and access other services. The ability to do all this will also assist people to comply with increasingly strict social distancing measures,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“As it has with a number of industries already, the ACCC stands ready to assist telecommunications providers with approval of any coordinated measures that are urgent and necessary during this crisis.”

Some Australian retail service providers are not members of the special working group and, as a condition of the authorisation, the ACCC says NBN Co must quickly inform it - and non-member service providers - about any material decisions made by the group that might affect them.

NBN Co says it welcomes the ACCC announcement authorising the telecommunications industry's "cooperative and collaborative approach" to help support Australian residential and business customers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are pleased that the ACCC has moved swiftly to grant the necessary permission that allows NBN Co to continue to lead and co-ordinate the whole-of-industry response within the telecommunications and communications sector, and we recognise and appreciate the resolve and commitment of our industry partners during this time," NBN Co said in a statement released on Wednesday.

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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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