ACCC examines Telstra FttC migration plan

Telstra has submitted a proposed variation to its plan for migrating customers off existing broadband services onto the NBN to make way for fibre-to-the-curb technology.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is seeking industry feedback on Telstra's proposal to update its National Broadband Network (NBN) migration plan, which details the process by which customers will be transitioned from Telstra's legacy copper and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks to the fixed-line NBN.

The proposed variations [PDF], published on Friday, are largely for the purpose of including NBN's fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) technology, which will cover 1 million premises and launch in 2018.

"Once the FttC technology is ready to be deployed, the migration plan is intended to promote efficient disconnections and minimal disruption in the switchover to NBN-based services," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

"It is important that the existing service is not disconnected without the customer's consent until the NBN-based service is successfully activated."

Telstra is also looking to amend the duration of the order stability period (OSP) in which it is allotted time to clear pending orders before permanently disconnecting existing services and connecting NBN services, and clarifying the application of cease-sale restrictions to cover all serviceable locations inside multi-dwelling units.

"Telstra considers that the migration plan needs to be further amended to reflect NBN's use of Telstra's existing copper network infrastructure for the purpose of supplying a new NBN service over FttC," Telstra's proposal to vary the Migration Plan to facilitate the rollout of Fibre to the Curb for the NBN: Discussion paper [PDF] says.

"This in turn will result in the disconnection of Telstra copper services supplied once NBN notifies Telstra that the FttC order is complete."

Telstra is specifically looking to update the special service (SS) class to add FttC-connected premises, as well as updating Clause 13.1 of the OSP to align with existing in-train premises -- premises that are still waiting for their NBN service order to be filled after the disconnection date has passed -- disconnection timelines.

"Telstra has advised that its proposal will also minimise disruption to the supply of copper and HFC services," the paper says.

Telstra noted in its Notification to the ACCC on proposed variation to the Migration Plan [PDF] that NBN has already approved of the proposed changes.

"In the case of FttC, Telstra's copper infrastructure is required from a small distribution point unit (DPU) location in a telecom pit outside a home to the customer premise[s]. Telstra has therefore updated the existing disconnection processes for copper services during the migration window set out in Clauses 9 and 22 of the plan, as well as Schedule 1, to accommodate the deployment of FttC as an access technology," Telstra explained in its Submission in support of the variation [PDF].

"In particular, they reflect the fact that NBN Co's use of Telstra's existing copper network infrastructure for the purpose of supplying a new NBN service over FttC may result in the disconnection of copper services supplied over the same infrastructure when NBN Co notifies Telstra that the FttC order is complete without the Telstra retail or Telstra wholesale customer placing a disconnection order."

The ACCC is seeking submissions on whether the proposed variations suitably protect existing services from being erroneously disconnected during the switchover period, and provide mechanisms for minimising unintended disconnections.

The consumer watchdog is also asking for comment on whether the proposed variations promote service continuity and minimise disruption as far as it is within Telstra's control; adequately describe timelines and processes for disconnecting copper and connecting NBN FttC services; bring up issues for the "equivalent treatment" of wholesale and retail customers during the disconnection of copper and connection of FttC; and could cause "unintended consequences" as well as any other issues not addressed by the ACCC or Telstra.

The ACCC will be accepting submissions until January 5, 2018, after which it will make a decision.

The regulatory authority had last varied Telstra's Migration Plan last year, when it accepted proposals to provide retail service providers (RSPs) with a longer timeframe in which to migrate customers to the NBN prior to mandatory disconnection.

The May 2016 variations included allowing additional time for all premises to be connected before mandatory disconnection takes place, as currently used by Telstra and NBN under interim measures; and for "special services" to be given an additional 12 months prior to mandatory disconnection when they are moved to a separate access technology.

NBN commenced building its FttC network in June this year, starting with a trial of its construction and installation process in Coburg, Victoria, where it reached 109/44Mbps speeds during initial testing across a 70-metre copper line.

It plans to commence construction at approximately 318,400 premises nationwide, including in the Greater Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth regions, along with Melbourne's CBD and Queensland's Sunshine Coast, between June and December 2017.

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