Government waters down NBN scope creep Bill

A Bill that would see the regulation surrounding the NBN loosened has had many of its proposed changes ditched.

Less than a week after a Senate committee recommended its passage, the government has tossed out large parts of its Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015.

Under the amendment proposed by the government on Monday, the sections concerning pilots and trials, access determinations, special access undertakings, line of business restrictions, authorised conduct, declared services, and eligible services would all be omitted.

These sections would have lifted the National Broadband Network (NBN) company's non-discrimination obligations in regards to pilots and trials of technology, and permitted NBN's line of business to be modified by regulation.

Last month, the line of business changes were slammed by telcos.

"Clear, fixed boundaries around NBN Co's permitted scope of business are needed for all retail service providers (RSPs) to make the substantial investment required to retool themselves for this new model," Telstra said the time.

"Investment certainty is undermined if there is a risk that NBN Co, with its advantages as a government-owned and funded entity, could encroach into areas of competitive activity."

"NBN Co should continue to be prevented from supplying content services, non-communications services, and non-communications goods except where the goods are used to supply an eligible communications service," TPG said.

"NBN Co should remain focused on the supply of telecoms services at wholesale. The status quo should be maintained," Vodafone added.

Today, the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC), an organisation of several non-dominant Australian telcos, said it welcomed the government's changes.

"The withdrawn elements would have threatened the development of a competitive level playing field once the NBN replaces Telstra's monopoly network," the CCC said in a statement. "Communications Minister Mitch Fifield should be commended for acting decisively to respond to industry concerns.

"The Labor opposition, Greens, and Independents ensured a thorough review of the amendments, allowing the industry to bring to light its concerns."

Earlier today, the company responsible for rolling out the NBN denied the claims in a leaked document that its fibre-to-the-node rollout is delayed and over budget.

"Construction completions currently sits at 29K against the corporate budget of 94K. Gap to target has increased from 49,183 to 65,268 as of week ending 12 Feb. Construction completions gap can be attributed to three main issues: Power, supply, and completions under review," the leaked document said.

"Despite 'designed commenced' remaining above budget, all other significant milestones of FttN continue to remain behind target.

"Action plans from NSW, WA, SA, and Tas will be required to ensure mid-May return to budget will be achieved."

In response, NBN said the document is not accurate, and added that it has met all of its rollout targets so far.

"We will not be drawn on alleged internal documents," NBN said.

"The company is on track to meet or exceed its full-year targets of 2.6 million homes ready for service, approximately 1 million homes using the network, and more than AU$300 million in revenue. The company's management has proven repeatedly that it can effectively monitor risks and manage those risks."

Responding to a question from Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare in parliament on Monday, former Communications Minster cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the government's record.

"This government has rescued it," Turnbull proclaimed.

"Since the election [in 2013], the number of premises that are serviceable by the NBN has increased by tenfold. By the end of this financial year, the NBN will have upgraded and have services available to one in four premises in Australia; by June 2018, it will be three in four premises in Australia."