ACCC plans to restrict Telstra’s NBN advantages

Alex Kidman 2 September 2016

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Telstra will have to provide a level playing field for HFC NBN connections, amongst other concerns raised by the national regulator.

The use of Telstra to build large segments of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has long been a contentious matter, simply due to the fact that while its technical arm may be building the network, its commercial arm is in direct competition with every other NBN service provider to actually sell services on the network, raising the possible issue of Telstra using inside knowledge or technical advantages in an anti-competitive way.

It’s exactly those kinds of scenarios that have the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) concerned, noting today a range of measures that it’s agreed to with Telstra to ensure a level NBN playing field for all businesses selling services on the network.

In a statement ACCC Chairman Rod Sims stated that "NBN Co and Telstra have said that one of the benefits of these commercial agreements is that it will facilitate a faster rollout of the NBN, which the ACCC acknowledges, but we also recognise that there are potential competition implications and the effect of these on end users is just as important."

The ACCC has laid out a report which details the measures that Telstra has agreed to implement to ensure it doesn’t gain an unfair commercial advantage.

Amongst its agreements, Telstra must provide HFC NBN connections to all service providers simultaneously in order to avoid Telstra gaining a competitive "head start" in installations once HFC NBN is available in a given area. The NBN plan was recently adjusted to remove more than a million HFC listed premises from the national rollout map, citing the higher than expected costs of installation in some areas and shifting those premises over to FTTN solutions instead, but the percentage of premises due to receive HFC-based NBN services is still substantial.

Telstra will also have to agree to priorities for activation and repair work as laid out by NBN rather than other retail service providers, as well as providing white-label activation for NBN and adhering to strict non-discrimination rules when at end-user premises.

Having laid out these agreements, the ACCC will now commence sorting out exactly how it will monitor Telstra’s adherence to them on an ongoing basis.

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