by Byron Connolly

ACCC concerned about Telstra’s role in NBN

Sep 02, 2016
GovernmentTechnology IndustryTelecommunications

NBN Co and Telstra have agreed to work with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure Australia’s largest telco won’t gain an unfair advantage over competitors rolling out the national broadband network.

The companies are responding to concerns from the ACCC that service delivery agreements between the companies – signed in December 2015 and April this year – may impede the emergence of more competitive fixed broadband markets.

The ACCC on Friday released a report which outlines its concerns that the agreements may give Telstra a head start in connecting customers to NBN HFC broadband services, preferential service activation and/or repair of NBN broadband services for its own customers. The ACCC also argued the agreements would provide the companies with greater insights than competitors into the NBN rollout.

“NBN Co and Telstra have said that one of the benefits of these commercial agreements is that they will facilitate a faster rollout off the NBN, which the ACCC acknowledges but also recognise that there are potential implications and the effect of these on end users is just as important,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

NBN Co and Telstra have agreed on measures that the ACCC believes will mitigate the potential risks to competition, which include:

  • Making NBN HFC connections available to all service providers simultaneously to avoid Telstra getting on a head start on these installations
  • NBN Co setting priorities on activation and repair work that it allocates to Telstra. The requires Telstra to follow those priorities and de-identifying work orders from other RSPs
  • Telstra providing ‘white label’ activation and repair services to NBN Co and requiring its field workforce follow non-discrimination rules when attending end user premises.

The ACCC said there was progress made to date but there was still work to do to address its remaining concerns.

“We will continue to monitor the relationship between NBN Co and Telstra and ensure Telstra contracts with NBN Co do not give it an advantage over its competitors in providing superfast broadband services over the NBN,” Sims said.

The ACCC said the next step will be to establish arrangements for monitoring of the implementation of the agreements, including NBN Co’s reporting of rollout information to its access seekers. This will be ahead of the HFC construction program reaching scale this year, ACCC said.

Internet Australia said the report further emphasises the need for NBN to develop fair and equitable means whereby retail service providers and their customers are better served and which encourage and facilitate increased competition.

“Telstra is both an NBN construction partner and an RSP. The ACCC is appropriately concerned to ensure a level playing field among all the RSPs,” said Internet Australia CEO, Laurie Patton.