ACCC finally accepts NBN Co's access terms

After two long years of consultation, the competition watchdog has finally accepted NBN Co's special access undertaking.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

After two years of consulting with the industry and pushing NBN Co into making changes to its Special Access Undertaking (SAU), the document has finally been accepted today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The SAU sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for the operation of the NBN 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.

For the third time, NBN Co submitted the SAU to the ACCC in late November, following a request from the ACCC in October to vary the last lodgement to include greater ACCC oversight over the prices NBN Co charges for new products, and for the watchdog to be able to stop NBN Co from removing wholesale products from the market.

Today, the ACCC announced that it had accepted the document.

"The acceptance of this SAU is a key milestone in establishing regulatory arrangements for the NBN," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

"This is a vastly different SAU than the version first submitted by NBN Co two years ago. Through the changes the ACCC requested and NBN Co has made, it is now a much more balanced instrument."

NBN Co is now in the process of negotiating a wholesale broadband agreement with its retail service providers, the ACCC said.

Although yesterday's release of NBN Co's strategic review will likely lead to a massive redesign of the network to now use the existing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks and fibre-to-the-node technology, the ACCC said that the SAU had been designed to be "technology neutral", meaning the document may not need to be completely rewritten.

"If, however, NBN Co wishes to vary the undertaking in the future in light of any new directions from the government, this can be accommodated," Sims said.

The government also has the option of withdrawing the SAU by giving 12 months' notice, the ACCC said.

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