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ACCC reconsiders Telstra copper regulation

Given the NBN rollout, the ACCC is seeking feedback on whether to continue regulating six Telstra copper services from mid-2019 until mid-2024.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has kicked off a consultation on whether it should continue regulating six Telstra fixed-line copper services from mid-2019.

Specifically, the ACCC is considering whether to declare Telstra's unconditioned local loop service (ULLS), line sharing service (LSS), wholesale line rental (WLR), local carriage service (LCS), fixed originating access service (FOAS, formerly PSTN OA), and fixed terminating access service (FTAS, formerly PSTN TA) under s152AL of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

According to ACCC Chair Rod Sims, the regulator will consider whether declaration is in the long-term interests of consumers given that many services are transitioning from legacy networks to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"The ACCC is seeking to take a streamlined approach to the declaration inquiry," Sims added.

"As the NBN rollout progresses, the relevance of Telstra's bottleneck copper network declines. Within the fixed line rollout, end users must migrate to the NBN or another high-speed network as the legacy copper services are switched off," the Fixed-line telecommunications services declaration inquiry: Consultation and position paper says.

"However, in the short term, the network still remains relevant to millions of end users, either prior to migration or in NBN fixed-wireless and satellite areas where legacy services remain available."

The paper also points to the pause in NBN's hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) rollout as increasing the "relevance" of Telstra's copper networks for the short term, due to a delayed migration.

"However, the ACCC does not consider that the pause on the HFC rollout is a substantive issue for the consideration of future declaration, given its short term effect on only a relatively small proportion of end users," the paper says.

The ACCC's report also discusses the federal government's intention to remove the Universal Service Obligation (USO) in 2020, which could affect Telstra's delivery of copper services in NBN satellite-served areas.

"In its December 2017 response to the Productivity Commission's 2017 inquiry into the USO, the government announced its intention to develop a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) to provide both broadband and voice services to all Australian premises on request," the report notes.

"That response also noted that a consideration in developing the new USG will be alternative means to provide voice services in NBN satellite areas. Whether any of the legacy copper network could have a role in that context remains unclear."

The consumer watchdog is seeking feedback on whether it should extend its six fixed-line declarations; whether continued declaration will promote competition and economically efficient use of Telstra's infrastructure, and achieve any-to-any connectivity; whether the service descriptions are still current and appropriate; whether extending regulation out to June 2024 is an appropriate timeframe; and whether there are any price and non-price terms needing to be revisited.

The ACCC is accepting feedback until October 12.

The regulator is also currently reconsidering its regulation of backhaul, as well as its domestic mobile terminating access service (MTAS) declaration.

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