Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ACCC irons out NBN access terms

ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims. Photo: Brendan Esposito

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is on the verge of finalising NBN Co's ''special access undertaking'', which sets out for 27 years the commercial and legal conditions under which telcos access the national broadband network.

The undertaking will spell out the terms and prices that NBN Co can impose on telcos that want to access the infrastructure, which will end Telstra's monopoly.

After lobbying from telcos, the commission's chairman, Rod Sims, asked for greater pricing regulatory oversight over NBN Co, including early review rights over pricing structure.

''The biggest change that is in the document now is increasing the number of price reviews we can do,'' he said. ''Price review allows us to reset the mix of fixed and usage charges NBN can charge.''


Consumers normally pay both a fixed access charge - a connection fee - and a usage charge. Currently, the fixed charge is responsible for 90 per cent of the cost of access.

''The largest remaining controversy between NBN and access seekers [telcos] was the concern over the usage charges,'' Mr Sims said.

''People are concerned when usage increases they will be too high. So we now have the ability to reset the relativity between fixed and usage - that is what access seekers have been asking.''

The commission issued its final notice on the special undertaking on Tuesday after two years of extensive industry consultation. NBN Co has until November 19 to respond to the variation notice.

Under NBN Co's undertaking, prices will stay the same until 2017 and future increases must be below inflation. ''Consumers will pay what they pay now for their internet services and prices should go down in real terms over time,'' Mr Sims said.

The key features of the undertaking are price controls, processes for developing and consulting with access seekers on new products, and a range of non-price commitments.

Mr Sims said the special access undertaking could accommodate any new policy directives from the new government.

''The ACCC understands that the government will now provide new policy directions to NBN Co. However, most of the commitments in the SAU [special access undertaking] are technology neutral and will apply even with a significant change in network design,'' he said.
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