More delays for NBN Co's pricing and service structure

The ACCC has again delayed making a decision on whether to accept or reject NBN Co's special access undertaking.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will first consult with the industry about proposed changes to NBN Co's special access undertaking (SAU) before making a final decision on whether to accept or reject the document.

The SAU sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for the operation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) until 2040, and is designed to work hand in hand with the wholesale-broadband agreement (WBA). The WBA sets out arrangements between NBN Co and access seekers over a shorter period of time; at this point, one year.

NBN Co has submitted the document to the ACCC twice so far. The latest document was put in to the authority in September, and included a five-year freeze on prices for the current set of wholesale products. It also limited NBN Co's ability to raise the prices after that to 1.5 percent less than the rate of annual inflation.

The ACCC has largely agreed to the current document, but has suggested a few slight variations to ensure that the regulator has better oversight over the products on offer and the agreements between NBN Co and internet service providers (ISPs). In a lengthy submission to the ACCC earlier this month, NBN Co supported most of the proposed changes, and outlined draft amendments to the SAU that the company believed would achieve those changes.

The telcos then accused NBN Co of trying to push out the decision from the ACCC by compiling such a large document.

The ACCC today said that it will hold a final round of consultations with the industry before it issues a formal notice to NBN Co to vary the undertaking. NBN Co can decide whether to make those variations.

If NBN Co makes the changes, then the ACCC will go to further consultation. As a result, the ACCC has delayed making a decision on the SAU indefinitely, but will accept submissions on the draft notice sent to NBN Co until July 26.

The announcement of further consultation has been welcomed by Optus' vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs, David Epstein, who said that Optus would like to see more effective independent regulatory oversight of the SAU by the ACCC, and clearer commitments from NBN Co around supply and access terms.

"While NBN Co has committed to reducing prices in the context of its Corporate Plan, there is no obligation in the current SAU for this to be enforced and the SAU provides the latitude for prices to increase," he said.

"Under the current price-control mechanism, the average cost of using the Basic Access service would be allowed to increase by 32 percent in the real price over the next 10 years. This compares to broadband internet prices decreasing by 18 percent in real terms over the last five years."

Editorial standards