Canberra-based fibre network provider TransACT has secured an exemption from the government's anti-cherry-picking network laws for a number of its fibre roll-outs.
The anti-cherry-picking laws that came into force yesterday are designed to ensure that any superfast broadband networks built from now on will provide the same open, layer-two wholesale service that will be offered by NBN Co over the National Broadband Network (NBN). The legislation is designed to prevent network operators from rolling out fibre networks purely in profitable areas, such as central business districts, because this would undermine the government's NBN roll-out, which aims to offer cross-subsidised services in both metro and regional Australia.
Prior to being taken over by iiNet late last year, TransACT CEO Ivan Slavich said that this legislation could have potentially forced TransACT to structurally separate, because TransACT offered layer-three wholesale services rather than layer-two services.
However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who has the power to provide exemptions from the legislation, announced yesterday that TransACT has been given an exemption for a number of pre-contracted real-estate developments, and for the upgrade to its VDSL network in Canberra.
"The exemptions recognise TransACT's business commitments that existed prior to the passage of the legislation. As part of the exemptions, TransACT will offer a wholesale product," the minister's office said in a statement.
Telstra was granted a similar exemption for its South Brisbane fibre network and Velocity greenfields sites in January on a similar proviso that the company provide wholesale services in those locations.
NBN Co came under fire this week from Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull for being far behind in the NBN roll-out for greenfields sites, stating that private-sector companies like TransACT would have more than just 110 houses up and running on fibre services. According to a report in Communications Day earlier this week, NBN Co has given Fujitsu a one-year extension on its contract to manage fibre infrastructure in greenfields sites, and the company is planning to deploy more construction contractors to greenfields locations in order to reduce the backlog of orders for fibre from new housing estates.