ACCC decision on NBN access terms delayed by new government

The Australian competition watchdog is waiting to see whether the new Coalition government's changes to the NBN will have an impact on the access terms before deciding whether to accept it.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will again delay making a decision on whether to accept or reject NBN Co's special access undertaking (SAU), until more is known about what impact the new Coalition government's plans for the National Broadband Network (NBN) will have on access and pricing terms for the network.

The SAU sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for the operation of theNBN until 2040, and is designed to work hand in hand with the wholesale-broadband agreement (WBA). The WBA sets out arrangements between NBN Co and access seekers over a shorter period of time; at this point, one year.

NBN Co has submitted the document to the ACCC twice so far. The latest document was put in to the authority in September, and it included a five-year freeze on prices for the current set of wholesale products. It also limited NBN Co's ability to raise the prices after that to 1.5 percent less than the rate of annual inflation.

The ACCC decided to push its decision out past the federal election after a final round of industry consultation in July, but with the election of a new government that has pledged to change the NBN rollout from a majority fibre-to-the-premises to a majority fibre-to-the-node network, the SAU could be invalid if the government changes the pricing or access rules for ISPs offering services on the NBN.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already indicated that instead of a wholesale price for NBN Co, there would be a wholesale cap price, where NBN Co could drop its prices in areas where it is competing against other networks for customers.

A spokesperson for the regulator told ZDNet that it is not in a position to make a final decision yet on the SAU in light of the change of government.

"The ACCC is still reviewing whether there is any impact on the NBN SAU process as a consequence of the change in government," the spokesperson said.

The ACCCon Thursday approved new measures by Telstra in relation to how it disconnects customers from the copper or hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks and connects the customer to the NBN.

Telstra 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 permission has been obtained from Telstra's wholesale customer. Once the pull through is complete, the copper or HFC service can be reconnected, if required.

The ACCC noted that in its approval of the decision that Telstra may need to consider other measures for migrating customers onto the NBN in light of the potential shift to fibre to the node.

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