ACCC casts eye on NBN Co's 'pull through' fibre drops

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is evaluating NBN Co's "pull through" method of installing fibre, which disconnects a customer's existing connection during installation.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is examining NBN Co's process of disconnecting the existing copper and hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) cables at the time of installing National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre in some locations.

As part of NBN Co's opt-out method of installing fibre to the 93 percent of premises across Australia, detailed in the updated NBN Co corporate plan released this year , it has developed a "pull through" method that sees the existing copper or HFC cables disconnected and attached to the fibre cable to pull it through the existing conduit. Once the pull through is complete, the copper or HFC service can be reconnected, if required.

It is only to be used if NBN Co can't install the cable through the existing conduit in any other method. If the pull through can't be used, then NBN Co will install a new conduit or do an aerial drop to the premise.

The pull through method will only be used once the user requests a service on the NBN through a retail service provider.

The overall process and the shift to an opt-out method for the roll-out of the fibre is designed to cut cost through re-using existing infrastructure and making more efficient use of construction crews undertaking the fibre drop across the country.

It is up to Telstra to obtain consent from its wholesale customers, such as iiNet or TPG, to use the pull through method, and Telstra must respond to pull through inquiries from NBN Co within an hour.

NBN Co then lets the end user know when the outage will start and end, and will reconnect the copper or HFC when it is completed. If it fails, NBN Co will try to install a temporary cable.

The ACCC has put out a consultation paper (PDF) that outlines the issues that NBN Co may face during the roll-out using this process, and is seeking comment on how consent from wholesale customers should be obtained, and how customers should be notified during the pull-through process.

The paper is open for comment until February 1, 2013.