Greenfield fibre group demands NBN clarity

Summary:Letters sent from a consortium of greenfield fibre providers to the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) requesting clarity on how the network will affect them appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Letters sent from a consortium of greenfield fibre providers to the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) requesting clarity on how the network will affect them appear to have fallen on deaf ears.


(Optic fibre image by Hisa Fujimoto, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The letters pertain to the NBN Co's pricing model. The group claims that the model appears to cut out local operators and the unbundling of backhaul costs.

The letters carry the names of six greenfield providers, including TransACT, Comverge, OPENetworks, Pivit, Service Elements and Broadcast Engineering Services, which together form the GreenField Operators Australia Group (GFOA). Together they service more than 300,000 connections and will service some 800,000 when current greenfield works are completed.

"They haven't even acknowledged to us ever receiving the letters," said OPENetworks strategy and legal counsel Michael Sparksman.

"They have not sought to meet us."

In a statement, NBN Co said that it cannot locate communication from GFOA requesting a meeting, but would welcome a discussion.

"We have an open and proactive engagement with all stakeholders in the greenfields sector and would certainly be happy to meet with any representative industry body, recognising that some detail of the greenfields requirement is yet to be worked out with government," the company said.

"[Communications Minister Stephen Conroy] will be making further policy announcements in the near future, and NBN Co's role is to implement government policy."

Sparksman said the group's mandate is to achieve clarity and equitable terms for greenfield providers.

"Our concerns are to ensure fair competition in greenfields where we have been operating for several years. All we ask for is fair competition.

"However, the NBN Co as a provider of last resort is nevertheless providing taxpayer funding for greenfield networks, and there is no clarity as to whether similar funding will be made to existing fibre greenfield operators who are prepared to operate on an open-access basis and provide the equivalent or better services to the NBN."

The GFOA will take the NBN Co to task on this and other contention points. It will request that:

  • NBN Co adopts reasonable well-established principles for interconnections with existing last mile providers
  • Proprietary interconnect standards be avoided and backhaul access be provided to NBN infrastructure
  • A national flat rate for backhaul exists between the Points of Interconnection and the Fibre Access Network for the local or last mile communities.
  • The Privacy Commission look at the greenfield model
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Federal Government better define the meaning of the "provider of last resort"
  • The Federal Government define its stance on network over-building
  • The Federal Government offers payments to greenfield network operators to transfer customers to NBN Co, in a similar fashion to Telstra and Optus
  • The Federal Government provides clarity for developers on how they will meet the greenfield fibre Bill. The group says there is no funding, subsidy or structure to enable compliance.

NBN Co has been contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of writing.

The group has also separately called on the Federal Government to provide some of Telstra's universal service obligation (USO) funding to the telco's rivals.

The USO obliges universal providers to ensure equitable access to telephony and carriage services throughout regional Australia.

Updated at 5:55pm, 3 November 2010: added comment from NBN Co

Topics: NBN, Networking, Telcos


Darren Pauli has been writing about technology for almost five years, he covers a gamut of news with a special focus on security, keeping readers informed about the world of cyber criminals and the safety measures needed to thwart them.

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