CCC slams Turnbull's NBN reviews

Australia's peak body for non-dominant telcos has slammed Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's inquiry into the national broadband landscape, dismissing its findings as 'rehashed, discredited theoretical arguments'.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

The Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC) has slammed the inquiries set up by Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull into Australia's broadband landscape, saying the government needs to move beyond "historical revisionism and point scoring".

The comments come as the government's independent review panel has been looking at telecommunications and broadband access and regulation in Australia, chaired by Michael Vertigan and commissioned by Turnbull last year, has delivered its final review.

It released its last of six reviews on October 1, recommending radical changes to Australia's broadband regulation, and the separation of NBN Co into companies split down the different broadband delivery technologies used in the network.

However, the CCC, the industry association for non-dominant telcos in Australia, today called the panel's inquiry "an expensive distraction that has done little more than create uncertainty and disquiet across the industry during a crucial period of the transition to a new broadband network".

"After deliberating all year, the Vertigan panel has recommended that Australia look to emulate 1970s US telephone industry policy to promote investment in 21st century broadband networks," the CCC said in a statement.

"It has made this recommendation a month after the most senior broadband regulator in the US, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, said the US model was leaving more and more Americans without competitive choice as the download speeds demanded by consumers increased to 25Mbps and beyond," it said.

While the organisation said it backs Turnbull's rejection of the Vertigan panel's suggestion that NBN Co be sold off as separate companies prior to the completion of the NBN's national rollout, it dismissed the majority of the panel's recommendations.

"Most of the Vertigan recommendations represent nothing more than rehashed, discredited theoretical arguments promoted by opponents of regulatory reform and the NBN," said the CCC. "The inquiry has been an expensive distraction that has done little more than create uncertainty and disquiet across the industry during a crucial period of the transition to a new broadband network."

The first of the Vertigan panel reports came out in July, with many of its 34 recommendations calling for the government to keep a close eye on how existing regulations were operating, or launch new inquiries into those regulations. However, a number of the specific recommendations also called for NBN competition rules to be loosened or eased up.

One particular point of contention within the industry was the ability for NBN Co to offer better deals to one retailer, but not another. The CCC warned at the time that should NBN Co be able to offer better deals to ISPs with larger customers, it would obviously favour the incumbent telco, Telstra.

Meanwhile, the final review contained 19 recommendations, with the panel arguing that the transit, satellite, and fixed-wireless units should be sold off, with the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks, still currently owned by Telstra and Optus, to be owned and operated by a non-NBN Co entity.

The panel also recommended moving away from uniform national wholesale pricing of services, and instead adopting a price cap for NBN-type services. This would ensure that broadband is still affordable in regional and rural areas, but would allow competition to bring down the price elsewhere.

Editorial standards