ACCC moves to regulate ‘superfast’ broadband networks


news The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a draft decision proposing regulation via a Superfast Broadband Access Service (SBAS) in order to prevent local monopolies by service providers.

Currently, the ACCC says, some superfast broadband services are already declared, some are subject to carrier licence conditions, others are subject to ministerial exemptions with conditions, while others are not regulated in any way.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims (pictured) explained: “Declaring an SBAS will go some way to simplifying and clarifying the regulations that apply in this area, and give access seekers certainty about gaining wholesale access to services on these networks.”

The ACCC says that telecommunications providers be allowed access to services with a downstream data rate normally more than 25 Mbps on all fixed line networks. Access will not be required where the network operator is already facing competition from alternative fixed network providers.

“The ACCC considers declaration of an SBAS will promote the long-term interests of end-users because it is likely to promote competition between telecommunications providers supplying services to end-users,” Sims said.

According to the ACCC, the declaration will not apply to services supplied by NBN Co; supplied on HFC networks that will be transferred to NBN Co; or that are regulated under the ACCC’s Local Bitstream Access Service declaration, as such services are, or will soon be, subject to other telecommunications access regulation under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

However, the organisation says, the draft declaration would apply to services supplied on Telstra’s FTTP networks in South Brisbane and Velocity estates; iiNet’s VDSL network in the ACT and HFC networks in regional Victoria; TPG’s FTTB networks; Spirit Telecom’s FTTB networks; and other networks that supply superfast carriage services, including superfast broadband networks that existed before 1 January 2011 (which are not subject to Part 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1997).

The ACCC is now inviting submissions concerning the decision. In particular, it says, comments are sought on the likely costs of complying with the declaration and whether it would be appropriate to exempt smaller providers on the basis of cost. The closing date for submissions is 4 December 2015.


  1. “The ACCC says that telecommunications providers be allowed access to services with a downstream data rate normally more than 25 Mbps on all fixed line networks. Access will not be required where the network operator is already facing competition from alternative fixed network providers.”

    What are they trying to do? I don’t understand this, Renai.

    This is going to mean HFC is potentially regulated in some locations, or not, depending on who is where? Optus cable too? How can you declare a service, then put conditions on that state “if there is more than x providers, it’s no longer declared”.

    Why is it whenever Sims opens his mouth, all I hear is “I’m helping!” followed by legislation/ rulings that are about a decade too late.

    The entire document basically provides a framework to explain why declaring a service is a good idea, followed by a laundry list of exceptions and provisions to grant exception, rendering the entire point of declaring a bit moot.

    NBNco is competing with TPG, so that network is likely to be almost entirely exempt. Optus and Telstra have competing HFC investments, so would they be exempt? Transact is also mentioned, but is already required to wholesale.

    The industry has asked for declaration for years. Now? It’s almost pointless. I don’t even.

    • ACCC telco regulation is often very difficult to understand, but I think this has to do with the recent Government regulatory decision that anyone (eg TPG) who deploys high-speed broadband networks will have to open those networks for wholesale access. I suspect this is the ACCC making its ruling to enforce that regulation. Or something similar.

      • This is how I read it too. If TPG want to cherry-pick the dense city areas, leaving NBN up poop creek without paddle for the higher ROI…well then TPG have to open that area up for wholesale access.

        This /should/ deter TPG…but I doubt by much.

        • To the best of my understanding, TPG have already been (effectively) forced to wholesale, under existing provisions.

          The problem, as I see it, is trying to declare something that is invalidated by a dozen existing situations; it’s great they are trying to formalise, but this seems very much ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

          This strikes me as legislation/ ruling that should have happened when NBNco started?

      • Which somewhat makes sense, as the NBN is meant to be a vessel for Wholesale access not retail. Of course this will be an issue when one day some bright spark decides that NBN co should get into retail.

  2. Does this mean that NBNCo will stop overbuilding existing infrastructure? Or is that too sensible?

    • No, it means if NBN Co overbuilds then the competing network is no longer regulated by these provisions. NBN Co needs to have as broad a network as possible, particularly in high density areas – they’re not going to be prohibited from any expansion.

    • No, it means overbuilding is effectively “competition” thus declaration may not be warranted.

      In a lovely twist of fate, this means TPG’s assets in FTTB may fall outside of being declared; a handy loophole, potentially. It’s the ACCC’s way of trying to encourage companies to overbuild – i.e. to compete with infrastructure.

  3. What this means is private entity has been able to do it faster better cheaper by doing more sensible business. Just because the NBN was dreamed up by some wannabe ICT specialists and got the cost modelling all wrong, means that now in order not to further make this disastrous project any worse the ACCC has to step in in order to ensure the NBN has some chance at survival….

    While I agree the NBN is good in theory, it shouldn’t be at the cost of economic development due to limitations needing to be set to keep a bad plan viable.

    Connectivity is cheap! Its pricing fixing and regulation that is holding us all back. If the NBN isn’t viable by missing out on dense populations (which lets face it, were the NBN really expecting to win everything), then they should go back to the drawing board and get a plan that makes sense for the nation rather than trying to protect their existence.

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