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Commonwealth goes for lighter touch in TIND policy update

NBN gets some additional reporting requirements but government believes existing policy is working well.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

The Australian government released its updated Telecommunications in New Developments (TIND) policy on Tuesday, as Canberra said the existing policy and market was working well and did not need additional regulation. 

"Most participants in the market have been operating in line with the policy and most outcomes are positive. The number of negative outcomes is limited," it said.

"In this context a lighter touch approach is warranted. The government will, however, look at more direct approaches should this change and greater guidance be required."

Building on the Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) obligations for NBN to be the default network provider, the new TIND policy is focused mainly on the government-owned wholesaler.

"So they can meet their ongoing SIP requirements, carriers should install fixed-line networks in new developments unless this is not reasonable, in which case they should use either fixed wireless or satellite technologies," the policy states.

Under the policy, NBN has a number of cost caps for installing connections, which it may lower if market forces demand it.

"These caps are to protect developers and occupants from costs that might otherwise discourage them from accessing telecommunications," the policy states.

The policy further calls for NBN and carriers to publish costs to build infrastructure and connect premises on their websites.

"Carriers should not charge end-users more than the relevant published rate. The maximum end-user contribution charge is set by this policy at AU$300 for a telephone and internet service," it states.

"The government will monitor carrier compliance with these aspects of the policy and will consider further regulation if warranted."

Under the TIND, NBN must "consider" connecting a new development to fixed-line broadband if it is within 1 kilometre of its fixed-line network.

"In all such cases, NBN Co will need to consider whether it is cost effective for it to install fixed-line infrastructure," the policy states.

"It must keep records where it decides not to use fixed-line infrastructure, including its reasons for not using such infrastructure, and must make those records available to the Minister or Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications on request."

NBN is also required to submit a charging strategy and schedule with the Minister of Communications, as well as retain records of charging decisions, and reasons why it charged below its cap.

"NBN Co must also retain records of any decisions to build competing infrastructure in new developments being serviced by other carriers and the commercial case for such activities. NBN Co must also keep records of its compliance with competitive neutrality policy in relation to new developments," the policy states.

In a submission to the Department of Communications, Telstra in March said it wanted NBN to pick up its obligations to supply voice services under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and behave as a fixed-line infrastructure provider of last resort (IPOLR).

"To support the delivery of USO voice services, NBN Co's fixed wireless service should be made USO-compliant. This is the logical next step from the SIP legislation, which will require NBN Co's 'qualifying fixed wireless network' to have voice and broadband capability," the telco said in its submission.

"It also lends support to our position that Telstra should no longer be the IPOLR outside NBN Co's fixed-line footprint.

"Whether or not Telstra ultimately retains an IPOLR role under the revised TIND policy, the interaction between the SIP regime and the USO must be clarified."

However that wish was not granted, with Telstra still being required to potentially deploy its own infrastructure for voice services.

"Telstra will generally provide a voice service where required using NBN Co's infrastructure and wholesale services," the policy states. "Where Telstra is unable to, or does not, use NBN Co's infrastructure, it may need to provide its own infrastructure to supply voice services."

The policy also stated the government would look into replicating, across all developers, the laws that force incorporated developers to offer "fibre-ready facilities" such as pits and pipes for communications when selling or leasing new lots.

The government is set to review the TIND policy in five years, but noted it would bring that forward "if warranted by changes in the market".

"Telecommunications are a vital part of everyday life and people expect that when they move into a new development they will have ready access to modern services. The revised policy released today reflects the modern telco landscape and will promote a more efficient, competitive and sustainable marketplace in servicing new developments," Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

"While core elements of the policy will continue, changes mean that NBN Co can better respond to growing competition."

Last week the government added 17 companies to be SIPs to 325,000 premises in 1,592 areas around the country.

The new SIPs are: Advatel Wireless, CipherTel, CNTCorp, CommSol, Fibre Asset Management, Frontier Networks, Interphone, LBN Co, Lynham Networks, OMNIconnect, OPENetworks, OptiComm, PIPE Networks, Real World Networks, Reddenet, Telair Holdings, and TransACT.

Also on Tuesday, NBN claimed it could boost agriculture output by 20% each year, or AU$15.6 billion, thanks to involving artificial intelligence in decision making, the use of autonomous equipment, and embracing Internet of Things to provide real-time information on farm conditions.

The figures were from an AlphaBeta report commissioned by NBN, which claimed poor connectivity was costing farmers up to AU$5 a hectare.

The government expects to review this policy in five years' time, but will do so earlier if warranted by changes in the market.

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