Optus denied access to NBN Co's confidential financials

NBN Co has rejected a request from Optus to access its confidential financial information.

NBN Co has rejected a request from Optus, which was to seeking to get access to the company's confidential financial information to ensure that NBN Co would not ultimately overcharge access seekers on the National Broadband Network.

Australia's second-largest telco made the request in November as part of ongoing discussions over NBN Co's special access undertaking (SAU), which sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for operating the NBN for the next 30 years. NBN Co submitted a revised SAU in September , indicating that it would freeze wholesale prices for NBN products until June 2017, and limit price increases per year to 1.5 percent, which is less than the rate of annual inflation.

Optus' head of interconnect and economic regulation, Andrew Sheridan, asked to establish a confidentiality regime between NBN Co and the companies that would wholesale services "to enable access to NBN Co's underlying financial data and other modelling, sufficient to facilitate an assessment of the efficiency of the long-term revenue constraint methodology."

He said that providing this information would explain how NBN Co's pricing controls work, and will ensure that NBN Co will not end up overcharging the access seekers.

"Such information will help verify that future charges do not represent over-recovery of costs," Sheridan said. "In the absence of this information, RSPs [retail service providers] will have to rely on publicly available information, which is incomplete."

In a letter published this week (PDF), NBN Co's head of regulatory affairs, Caroline Lovell, denied Optus access to this information, saying that Optus had a basic misunderstanding of the SAU.

Lovell said that a key aspect of the corporate plane is that there will be decreases in prices over time as the average access speeds and data usage increases. Lovell said that the information in the SAU submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was all that was required.

"NBN Co does not believe that the modelling information sought by Optus will assist the ACCC in assessing the SAU," she said.

"NBN Co does not see any utility in providing financial data and modelling of the [long term revenue constraint methodology] as part of the ACCC's assessment of the SAU."

The ACCC is no longer accepting submissions for the discussion paper on the revised SAU, and the watchdog has until the end of March to decide whether to accept or reject this undertaking from NBN Co.