ACCC opens up superfast broadband to competition

Alex Kidman 29 July 2016


If you’re an apartment dweller served by non-NBN fast broadband, your options have just been opened up.

While the National Broadband Network gathers most of the headlines when it comes to fast broadband choices at the consumer level, the reality is that it’s not quite the only game in town. For certain apartment and office blocks, the relevant fast option lies with a small number of privately owned fibre networks, such as TPG’s Fibre To The Building option. They’re not available everywhere, but where they are it’s pretty much a case of being the only option available to consumers.

The rollout of these networks to selected locations created an effective monopoly on service provision, which has today led to the ACCC declaring what it’s calling the "superfast broadband access service".

What’s a superfast broadband access service?

The ACCC’s declaration of these services applies to non-NBN services with downstream data rates normally more than 25Mbps. The ACCC’s release on the matter specifically namechecks TPG’s FTTB service as operated by subsidiary AAPT as well as Telstra’s Velocity and South Brisbane estate products, but other networks could fall under the scope of this declaration.

What does declaring the service actually mean?

Under the terms of the ACCC’s declaration, for a period of five years access prices to these services will be regulated, meaning that end providers must make them accessible to other retailers at no more than a determined price. The ACCC is seeking input as to price terms but at the outset has set terms that will apply for at least the next 12 months.

In practical terms, what the ACCC is trying to do here is regulate so that customers in the footprint of these services pay similar prices to NBN customers. It notes in the release that:

"Interim prices for entry level services are benchmarked to existing regulated prices for similar superfast broadband services on the NBN and other networks."

Very small providers, defined as those with fewer than 20,000 customers will be exempt from the declaration of services in order to ease regulatory burdens. The other exemption applies to purely business, public works or charity-centric services located in the CBD districts of capital cities. In the latter case it’s not regulatory burdens that create the exemption. Instead, the ACCC views that competition is already sufficient in those instances that declaration is unnecessary.

Image: Shutterstock

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