Stop NBN Co from retail creep: Liberals

Stop NBN Co from retail creep: Liberals

Summary: The Federal Opposition yesterday vehemently protested key provisions of legislation associated with the National Broadband Network, which it claimed would open the door for NBN Co to become a retail provider of broadband services, going against its "wholesale-only" mandate.


The Federal Opposition yesterday vehemently protested key provisions of legislation associated with the National Broadband Network, which it claimed would open the door for NBN Co to become a retail provider of broadband services, going against its "wholesale-only" mandate.

Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher has warned that the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (NBN Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 open the door for NBN Co to experience mission creep and enter the retail market.

"Coalition senators are concerned that these latest Bills continue to undermine the government's repeated reassurances that NBN Co will provide 'wholesale-only' services, and will not compete in any way whatsoever with retail service providers," Fisher said.

The Bills would allow NBN Co to directly service the internal needs of utilities such as water and electricity suppliers "thereby cutting other retailers out of bidding for that potential market", said Fisher, and would also allow NBN Co to directly service the internal needs of licensed carriers.

Utilities had appealed to the committee to be allowed to be given services direct from NBN, arguing that the added level of a retail service provider would bring unneeded complexity and costs that would be passed onto consumers.

There has been speculation in the telecommunications industry on the issue of whether large companies such as banks would be able to qualify for a carrier licence, and thus buy telecommunications services directly from NBN Co. NBN Co rejected the concerns from Telstra, stating its proposed amendments would effectively prevent itself from offering wholesale services on to other telcos.

"We remain concerned that the Bill is operationally ambiguous, and in several aspects so vague in a new telecommunications framework, as to fail to prevent the NBN from engaging in 'mission creep' — that is, from extending beyond the wholesale market," the Coalition senators said in their statement.

The Opposition also recommended that the cherry-picking components of the Bills be removed.

In addition, the Opposition objected to clauses in the legislation that require the communications minister of the day to declare the NBN was complete and fully operational, and the finance minister of the day to declare market conditions were suitable, before NBN Co itself could be privatised.

"We also think the milestones set for future privatisation of the NBN are deliberately so onerous as to stop it ever being sold," Fisher said. "It's hypocritical for the government to require a Productivity Commission review of NBN Co should the company be privatised in the future, whilst continuing to evade a similar level of scrutiny before committing the Australian taxpayer to the most expensive single project in the country's history."

The calls came as the Senate's Environment and Communications Committee, which is composed of senators from three sides of parliament — Labor, Liberal and Greens — culminated its investigation into the Bills, recommending both be passed by parliament in a report available online (PDF).

The committee's sole recommendation was that the second Bill be modified as previously amended in the House of Representatives to make NBN Co accountable under Freedom of Information laws.

The committee dismissed the other concerns raised in the inquiry, such as those from fibre wholesale providers such as TransACT that the laws' cherry-picking provisions, which would require other fibre providers to open up their networks to other providers, would adversely affect their business and prevent them from building future fibre networks.

"The committee notes that some concerns have been overstated as the requirements do not prevent other companies from rolling out fibre networks. Furthermore, the provisions do not require network operators to mirror NBN Co's operations or match its terms and conditions," the committee stated. "They do, however, legitimately require them to operate within a comparable regulatory framework so that end users have access to the same quality services regardless of the network provider."

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • how about just giving Telstra the $B36 and tell them to overbuild their copper network,over the next 10-15yrs,and be done with the whole circus surrounding this.
    100% FTTH nothing lees will do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • If you think $36B will do fibre to 100% you are misguided.

      As for give it to Telstra... seriously Peter, your earlier comments made sense, what happened?
  • Whilst the Liberal party have called the NBN a white elephant, asked why it couldn't be all be done with wireless, and spread all sorts of hype and misinformation, in this case they should be congratulated for contributing constructively to the debate about the NBN's scope. I would like to see more debate about complex issues such as this, rather than dumbing it down NBN to whether we need it or not.
  • more wireless is fine if you live in a fibre,100mbps recieving area,if you live in a rural wireless or satelite only area, getting 12mbps, which may NOT have contigous coverage,
    ( as stated by NBN Co.,on their website under, "our coverage"), wireless is not even a reasonable (1st world option). and will put lives at risk in advervse weather conditions,(where non-contigious service is an issue),which may place the Govt.(NBN Co.), in a position of failing in its duty of care to public safety.100% FTTH,Telstra shareholders vote NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Ah Peter it's all becoming clearer.

    So you have better than 12Mbps now?

    If not, do you wish to keep the status quo...?
  • I think the Coalition have a boy who cried wolf problem. Since they've been so vehemently critical/negative about every aspect of the NBN project how can you take anything they raise seriously? Their well known policy position is they want to "destroy the NBN". Since they were so overt about it they have very little credibility at the negotiation table.

    That said, while I can see some good arguments for why utilities should be able to source their network needs directly from NBN Co, the government should be made to explicitly state where they're going to draw the line. Will it be at utilities? Defence? Government departments? Banks? Or what are the criterion for exemptions?
  • Dear RS,
    No the status quo won't do.
    I was being a little sarcastic,100% FTTH, for a copper network overbuild would probably cost closer to $B200,especially keeping USO & CSG's in place.As for my situation a fibre route runs less than 2km from my place & the 80 or so rural residences around me we are placed in middle of 5 surrounding towns which will all get fibre & we will get satelite.
    because they are to cheap to build a 1st world network for ALL AUSTRALIANS, not just urbanites who hold the keys to their political offices,this proposed network is being built by ACCOUNTANTS not construction specailists.(In my opinion anyway),100% FTTH only.
    And there is an element of self interest as I build these networks for a living,servicing RURAL ONLY communities, this NBN model will send my business bankrupt, & put my 7 employees out of work.My business will only be 1 of many nation wide to go as well.I can think of at least 15 that will be gone, with at least 70 jobs permanently gone from these rural areas,putting these poeple onto social security,none of this good for rural areas,anywhere.100% FTTH the only option!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Well I sincerely feel for you Peter and thank you for being so honest. There are many out there who bag the NBN for the same reason, but will not own up to it...

    However, technology progresses...

    As such, perhaps you can jump onboard the NBN, as it has been said there is a shortage of skilled workers...
  • P.S.
    I only say, shareholders say NO, only because NBN is going to do 1/2 a job.personally I don't care who I'm putting cable in the ground for, as long as I and people like me are still working, and the rural Australians, this is suppossed to be benefitting, ARE ACTUALLY benefiting.
  • Indeed...

    But to sound somewhat heartless, this is about what's best for all rural Aussies...not just those who currently install cable

    Your situation is personal and really nothing to do with what's the best solutions for Australia's comms...!
  • The NBN is a joke. It would never stake up in private industry, but somehow stacks up with taxpayers money.

    The view that it will someday 'save the world' is absolute garbage. The 'dreamers' talk about 'future killer apps' that will someday completely revolutionise the world, have not seen it yet and doubt ever will. They cannot win on the financials, but will try to win on the 'mystical' and 'untangible'. All speculation, and would never gamble as such with their own money (which it is anyway as a taxpayer).

    The benefit from 'no' broadband to getting it, can be challenged. However, having access to it already to the need to have 100Mbps now and in the future is a joke. The idea it is somehow 'the new electricity' is again a huge laugh.

    Even those who would like higher speed, would not be able to afford it at its current rate of price offering.

    Pricing goes up. Return poor. Hence, the option to make it as a big Telstra again for retail. Great, let's go back 20 years in time and do the same thing again.

    Those who want to live in regional/remote is their choice. No broadband or what ever they can get, is their choice to live there. Talk of a 'great life' and 'the city sticks' is always a lifestyle choice. 'Equivalence' is not there, and should not be. It's a choice, otherwise you can always move.
  • RS
    not so,progress must happen but not at rural aust. expense again.I dont care who i put in for.NBN is a great idea,but if the service standard is 100mbps so itr should be for all aust. the Govt said this project would create 25,000 jobs and it probably will in cities, at the expense of 30,000 in rural areas,directly and indirectly.bigger than me and my interests
    • Pure speculation spoken from your perspective only - from the heart rather than the head...! But I can see why you are ***sed of course!

      Regardless, we won't be getting 100% fibre from either side of politics. In fact the Coalition, at the last election anyway, was offering only 97% coverage all up (using any an everything HFC, DSL, wireless etc) from memory! As opposed to the governments 93% fibre/7% wireless & satellite.

      Anyway again I am sincerely sorry for your plight, but progress will keep coming and will, as it always has, take it's toll.

      I myself could any day get a tap on the shoulder, because like most Aussies, my employment (not even remotely close to IT/comms, btw) could go at any second...!

      And yes, I would be ***sed, like you are too...
  • Public roads, hospitals, schools etc, don't stack up either... Which is EXACTLY why the Government needs to fund/build them...!

    Thing is they have little or no ROI, where as the NBN will pay for itself, according to NBNCo...

    So if the choice is listen to NBNCo or listen to a desperate, 1950's like opposition and their blind supporters or those naysayers like you Theguy, who come her to incessantly bag the NBN for no rational reason (except from peter1966 who honestly told us the NBN will affect his cable laying business), well I'll believe NBNCo, thank you...!

    BTW - those who live rurally (not me) who you cast aside because, I'm ok **** you, have rights too and as such will be getting 12Mbps not 100Mbps like the cities. To say they should accept "no broadband" as you did, is idiocy in the extreme, imo.

    While some countries around the world (particularly in Europe) accept internet access as a basic human right and the UN are also pushing for this globally... some selfish, big mouthed yobbo, Australians, will, out of their own warped agenda's, openly say, you want broadband move... dear oh dear!

    As for the future, who needs charts for over the last 30 years as a guide to future trends?

    Just check what YOU were using (download wise), YOUR speeds and YOUR PC specs/requirements from 5, 10 and 15 years ago and then tell us with a straight face, that we won't need bigger, faster, better and what we have will do forever... just as those naysayers before you in the last century (how apt) were saying back then too!
  • RS
    NO RESPONSE ?,its not just my interest,think about how many areas with poeple like me will be affected,and by the way theguy we still feed you.
  • Gee Pete give me time to catch my breath...!

    You see Pete, in fact it is people like me who are supporting the bush against people like Theguy. But for you, being in the cable laying business, it seems everyone is against you...!

    But how many people like you will be affected? Well, how many cable layers, who won't take up employment from NBNCo are there out there?

    I'd say the NBN will help many many more than it will harm, both directly and indirectly...and I say that that with some basis and without guessing (as you did). As such, here's a small example just recently (and yes Perth is a capital city but Geraldton a regional town of less than 30000) ... look at the flow-on effects....

    From within... "Overall, Nextgen employed 40 people working over a six- month-period, on a 21-day roster, the company said. The company spent more than $450,000 on accommodation and close to $200,000 on meals, as well as a further $480,000 or so on local businesses through storage facilities, local couriers, vehicles, taxis, printing, traffic management and more".

    Now tell me these businesses didn't appreciate the $1m in revenue pumped into their local businesses?
  • again not so,
    measure twice cut once.(do it right the first time)theres no second the time this is built many of the un-fibred towns will be have expanded and the infrastructure being deployed now won't cope. especially when your free to air TV comes via your wireless/satelite, 12mbps connection, as well.the break up is 10mbps Tv,1.5mbps internet,0.5mbps voip. thats straight from NBN Co. industry session.regardless of my situation 100mbps is the only way,equal service standards for all.and I have been approached to install for NBN,and still consider 100% FTTH to be the only future proofed option to be viable otherwise in 50 yrs we will see new regional cities on ?12mbps satelite and be right back where we are now,and it will cost a lot more to upgrade and expand a network then especially with ?50 yrs of then installed u/ground infrastructure as obstacles,unless of course that need is supplied via areaial cable deployment.building 100% FTTH now will give 100's of FAP's (fibre access pionts).to tap out of for future network expansion.ALOT bigger than me
  • Pete you are corresponding with an unabashed NBN supporter.

    Sadly hwoever, the NBN is hard enough to get through the political quagmire and to convince a more and more selfish/conservative voting public, in it's current form, let alone with vastly added costs of 100% fibre (try arguing that with Mal, Tony and those FUDsters here...LOL)!

    Your gripe is with those who say YOU should have no broadband at all and should move home... not me.

    I certainly don't wish to harp on your own unfortunate personal circumstances and for this to turn into another argumentative point, as occurred and has carried on for some 2 years with a few Telstra shareholders).

    So cheers and good luck...!
  • RS no beef with you only stating an opinion sorry you think i'm argueing only to-ing and fro-ing points and opinions,with a supportive voice,hoping to incite some wider debate in support for rural oz getting 100mbps, preferably cable based,regardless of my interests.NBN is great but needs to be future proofed