ISPs hold out on NBN Co contracts

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has issued its final wholesale broadband agreement, but internet service providers are still holding out on signing on the dotted line.

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has issued its final wholesale broadband agreement (WBA), but internet service providers are still holding out on signing on the dotted line.

The WBA document outlines the types of products and services that retail service providers can access on the NBN, as well as the terms and conditions for those services. NBN Co has been working on the document for over a year in consultation with the industry. There have been five iterations of the WBA, with the last version shortening the length of the agreement to one year. However, NBN Co has now announced that the document released yesterday will be the final version.

According to the NBN Co, this version includes new service level targets and a new operations manual. NBN Co head of product development and industry engagement, Jim Hassell, said that the company believed it was a good deal for the industry and consumers.

"The Wholesale Broadband Agreement strikes a fair balance between our customers' need for certainty and the flexibility we need, including to accommodate any further regulatory requirements," Hassell said in a statement.

But internet service providers appear to be far from pleased at the announcement. iiNet's chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, told ZDNet Australia that iiNet still had concerns over NBN Co not willing to accept liability for network outages, and that NBN Co had become a "true incumbent" in adopting the "take it or leave it" approach with the final document.

"It disallows ACCC or regulatory oversight, accepts no liability for [customer service guarantee], negligence or network outages," he said.

"We've discussed and documented these and other concerns with NBN Co and it would appear to have been a waste of breath. The certainty that they offer is that they will do very little to produce it," he added. "We won't be signing that."

Optus' general manager of interconnect and economic regulation, Andrew Sheridan, had similar concerns over service assurance levels, and said it was concerning that NBN Co was intending to go ahead with the WBA in this form without addressing all of the industry's concerns.

"While some progress has been made, it remains disappointing that a number of material concerns such as regulatory oversight and service assurance levels have still not been addressed adequately in the document released today," he said.

"A fundamental element of the NBN policy is that NBN Co be tightly regulated. As it stands the WBA moves away from this commitment and seeks to limit the role of the ACCC," he said.

Internode's carrier relations manager, John Lindsay, said that the ISP was still negotiating with NBN Co over the agreement, and Telstra said that it was reviewing the document and would discuss any concerns with NBN Co.

NBN Co said that it planned to continue to consult with industry on the WBA while the ACCC is considering the special access undertaking (SAU) that sets out the regulatory framework for NBN pricing over the next 30 years. NBN Co said amendments can be made to the document to align it with the SAU as it is accepted by the ACCC.


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