Optus seeks NBN Co's confidential financials

Optus has asked the competition regulator to provide confidential information from NBN Co in order to ensure that it will not ultimately overcharge access seekers on the NBN.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australia's second-largest telecommunications company, Optus, has written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), asking to access NBN Co's confidential financial data and modelling to ensure that the company doesn't overcharge wholesalers on the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The letter was sent last month to the ACCC as part of ongoing discussions over NBN Co's special access undertaking (SAU), which sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for the operation of 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.

In a letter to the ACCC in November, Optus' head of interconnect and economic regulation, Andrew Sheridan, asked to establish a confidentiality regime between NBN Co and the companies that 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."

Sheridan said that there is precedent for this, with Telstra providing its cost data for wholesale fixed services, while Vodafone and Optus have also provided their cost data as a part of mobile-termination access services cost determinations.

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."

The ACCC has established confidentiality arrangements for the assessment of the SAU, and NBN Co has said that it will assess each request it receives for "commercially confidential information" on a case-by-case basis.

The ACCC is taking submissions on the discussion paper for the latest SAU until January 11, 2013, and will hold a stakeholders forum on December 10, 2012.

The watchdog has until the end of March 2013 to decide to accept or reject the undertaking from NBN Co.

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