ACCC seeking submissions on Telstra's NBN migration plan amendments

The ACCC has released a discussion paper on the changes Telstra wants made to the NBN migration plan, and is seeking submissions on whether to extend disconnection dates.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published a discussion paper on Telstra's proposal to vary the National Broadband Network (NBN) migration plan, inviting submissions on several minor changes to the plan, including to extend the mandatory disconnection date.

The migration plan details the process by which broadband and phone customers will be transitioned from Telstra's legacy copper network and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network to the fixed-line NBN.

The ACCC's discussion paper [PDF] is seeking feedback on whether the migration plan should be amended to include Telstra's proposed changes, including to allow 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 under the multi-technology mix (MTM) NBN.

"The ACCC's consideration of the proposed variation is limited to whether or not the migration plan, as varied, complies with the Migration Plan Principles issued by the Australian government in 2015," ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.

The migration principles include driving the efficient and timely disconnection of services; reducing the possibility of disrupting the supply of services; providing wholesale customers with autonomy over decision making on disconnecting; and ensuring that wholesale services and retail services are disconnected in an equivalent manner.

In allowing additional time before premises are disconnected, the discussion paper outlines Telstra's request that in-train order premises -- described as premises that are still waiting for their NBN service order to be filled after the disconnection date has passed -- should continue having services supplied up to 150 business days after the date has passed, rather than just 30 days.

Telstra also recommended that NBN notify it of completed or cancelled in-train orders during three "test points": 60 business days, 90 business days, and 120 business days after the 30-day disconnection date.

The final notification date will then serve as the marker for when a premises will be disconnected by Telstra.

"Telstra will have 30 business days from the notification date to disconnect the premises," the paper concludes.

Telstra also put forward that should NBN change its determination of the access technology being used to supply special services -- business-grade services, such as ISDN, data transmission, and remote telemetry -- within six months of the disconnection date for the premises' rollout region, an extra year should be added to the premises' disconnection date in order to mitigate the possibility of disrupting such services.

"Under the MTM NBN, NBN Co has the ability to determine the access technology used to supply services to a particular premises, and can change its decision on the access technology used at any point in the migration process," the paper notes.

"NBN Co's ability to change the access technology used at a particular premises raises the risk of special service facing imminent disconnection in instances where NBN Co changes the access technology used to supply special service close to the disconnection date.

"Telstra has sought to address this risk by providing that where NBN Co changes the access technology in relation to a premises in the six months leading up to the rollout region disconnection date that premises will be given an additional 12 months before mandatory disconnection commences."

Several minor changes were also requested by Telstra: Altering the definition of a service area module to include 5,000 premises rather than 4,000 as outlined in the definitive agreements; updating the migration plan to include quarterly reporting, an obligation previously agreed to with the ACCC; and ensuring that the migration plan clarifies that the order stability period also applies to the HFC network as well as the copper network.

The ACCC is undertaking a 28-day consultation period on the matter, with submissions being accepted until June 20.

The ACCC released its final Migration Assurance Policy in February, calling for migration data and information to be shared between Telstra Wholesale, NBN, retail service providers (RSPs), application service providers (ASPs), and other involved parties in a way that will promote efficiency "while respecting confidentiality and privacy".

Data to be shared includes the fixed-line footprint list, which outlines all premises that have been or will be passed by NBN's fixed-line network; the historical footprint list, which contains details on premises that can be served by the NBN; Telstra's disconnection list; service and location identification data; order information between Telstra and its customers, and between RSPs and NBN; and information on Telstra's active copper and HFC services.

Telstra is also required to provide its wholesale customers "on a best efforts basis" with information on which customers are close to reaching their disconnection date, so that they can be assisted in their transition to NBN services.

The plan identified four "pillars" of customer migration onto the NBN: Serviceability, wherein NBN commits to making areas ready for service; product availability in regards to RSPs and ASPs providing broadband, voice, and over-the-top services over the NBN; end-user awareness and management, with NBN, RSPs, and ASPs to provide customers with information on the disconnection timings, the impacts of this, and the status of their connection; and installation and activation of NBN services in a timely manner by NBN and RSPs.

End users of all fixed-line services have been given an 18-month window to transition from Telstra to NBN from the date that an area is declared to be ready for service, with Telstra to disconnect its services once the timeframe has expired. The migration plan calls on RSPs to develop and offer retail products and services within this 18-month window to ensure minimal disruption to end users.

In September 2014, Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull began consultation to modify the migration process after the original May 2014 deadline to get residents off the legacy copper had failed. Three months after that deadline, there were premises in the first 15 regions "still subject to the migration process" as a result of poor coordination and communication between NBN and RSPs, and inadequate construction that prevented premises that had been passed by the NBN to actually connect to it.

Last June, the ACCC approved the migration plan seven months after Telstra and NBN had entered into a revised AU$11 billion deal allowing NBN to take ownership of Telstra's copper and HFC network assets. The modified agreement came as a result of the Coalition government's decision to move away from a full fibre-to-the-premises rollout to the present so-called MTM network incorporating fibre to the node (FttN), fibre to the building (FttB), and HFC.