Telcos accuse NBN Co of pushing SAU delays

NBN Co's lengthy response to suggested changes to its special access undertaking has been met with criticism by retail service providers.

Optus and members of the Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC) have accused NBN Co of delaying the acceptance of the special access undertaking (SAU) by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The SAU sets out the pricing and regulatory framework for the operation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) for the next 30 years, 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.

In responses published on the ACCC's site today, the Competitive Carriers Coalition, which is a group made up of telcos, including Macquarie Telecom, iiNet, AAPT, and Vodafone, suggested that in providing such a lengthy response, NBN Co is seeking to push the acceptance of the SAU back even further.

"The sheer volume of the NBN Co response threatens to extend the timeframe for the commission to reach a final variation notice to an extent that is unacceptable," the CCC's David Forman said.

Forman said that telcos have been living with temporary access agreements for close to two years, and the SAU would help to improve the relationships between NBN Co and carriers.

"It is the CCC's view that NBN Co's decision to respond to the Commission's discussion paper as it has done is — at the very least — a demonstration of a lack of urgency on the part of NBN to settle the access arrangements by way of accepted undertaking," he said.

"At worst, it is an abuse of process."

Forman said that it is unreasonable for the industry to be expected to respond to NBN Co's proposed changes, and called for the ACCC to present to NBN Co a variation notice on how to change its SAU before it can be accepted.

Optus' head of interconnect and economic regulation, Andrew Sheridan, was more diplomatic in his letter, stating that NBN Co was likely "well intentioned" in giving such a detailed response, but said it would likely delay a resolution for the SAU. Sheridan also suggested that the ACCC also send NBN Co a variation notice to make the proposed changes to the SAU.

The ACCC has until July 19, 2013, to accept or reject NBN Co's SAU.