Draft policy released for customer shift from Telstra copper to NBN

The draft process plan for migrating Telstra customers from fixed-line services to the National Broadband Network has been released by the government, calling on increased information sharing between Telstra, NBN, and retailers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian government has released its draft Migration Assurance Policy detailing the process for customers to be migrated from Telstra's legacy copper network to the fixed-line National Broadband Network (NBN).

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed in January that plans for a revised migration plan to be lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had been finalised, with the plan to govern how customers will be migrated onto the NBN and how Telstra will disconnect its copper and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks thereafter.

Published on Monday, the draft policy (PDF) draws on industry consultation as well as the migration experiences of the initial 31 rollout locations, and calls for migration data and information to be shared between Telstra Wholesale, NBN, retail service providers (RSPs), and application service providers in a "timely, accurate, and consistent" manner.

Data to be shared includes the fixed-line footprint list, which outlines all premises that have been 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; location identification data; order information between Telstra and its customers, and between retailers and NBN; and information on Telstra's active copper services.

End users of fixed-line services have been given an 18-month window to migrate 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 time frame has expired. The draft plan calls on RSPs to develop retail products and services within the 18-month window to ensure minimal service disruptions.

Last month, the ACCC approved the migration plan, seven months after Telstra and NBN entered into a revised AU$11 billion deal allowing NBN to take ownership of Telstra's copper and hybrid fibre-coaxial (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 multi-technology mix (MTM) network incorporating fibre to the node, fibre to the building, and HFC.

"The revised migration plan will better protect consumers from premature disconnection of their phone and internet services," ACCC chair Rod Sims said in June.

In September 2014, 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.

In January, the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) warned that permitting NBN to build lead-ins to premises it will connect to the HFC network while that network is still owned by Telstra will give the company a competitive advantage. Telstra's competitors have argued that Telstra continuing to build out its HFC network to new premises, despite its impending sale to NBN, is a move to ensure that it has more NBN customers.

The ACCC recommended last month that in order to ensure Telstra does not have a competitive advantage during the NBN rollout, the company should make all information available to retailers at the same time as it is made available to Telstra.

An estimated 3.27 million premises could be serviced by the HFC networks being taken over from Telstra and Optus, with customers beginning to be connected from March 2016.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in May reported that it had received 1,635 NBN-related complaints in January to March 2015, a 15.6 percent increase compared to the previous quarter. Connection complaints made up 44.8 percent of these.

The government has called for feedback on the draft migration policy, with submissions due by August 20.

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