Telstra-NBN deal in the Senate spotlight

Portions of the renegotiated Telstra-NBN deal will be probed by a parliamentary committee.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Former Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has successfully moved a motion to have portions of the Telstra-NBN Co renegotiated deal examined by a Senate committee.

The Senate Environment and Communications committee on Tuesday recommended that the government's second telecommunications deregulation Bill should be passed. The Bill would abolish the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) and absorb its functions into the Department of Communications.

TUSMA is tasked with ensuring that Australians have access to voice services, and, with the National Broadband Network (NBN) migration, to ensure that customers are informed and are able to migrate their voice service from the legacy copper network to the NBN.

In a dissenting report, however, Labor senators on the committee said that the committee has not had the chance to review the impact of the new deal between Telstra and NBN Co signed in December that will allow NBN Co to access Telstra's existing HFC and copper infrastructure for the so-called multi-technology mix model of the NBN.

"It is Labor's view that the new arrangements for TUSMA set out in these Bills should be reconsidered in light of these amendments to the TUSMA agreement with Telstra," Labor Senators Anne Urquhart and Lisa Singh said.

According to Telstra, the new deal has some "limited changes" to "address operational issues" between Telstra and TUSMA.

Subsequently, Conroy moved a motion in the Senate on Tuesday that would refer the legislation back to the committee in light of the new deal. The motion was passed with the help of Greens and Palmer United Party senators.

The Bill will also extend the registration period for numbers on the Do Not Call register to an indefinite period.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton indicated last week that while the industry backs this measure, the government should also consider making it possible for numbers to be removed when they are no longer used.

He said that the situation would eventuate in every number in Australia being on the register, even those that were registered by one person, but then recycled when that person gave up the number, or changed numbers.

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