news The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced it is opening up the wholesale superfast broadband services to competition with the declaration of a five-year “superfast broadband access service” (SBAS).
The ACCC can declare a service if it feels that doing so would promote the “long-term interests” of users. The regulator’s declaration ensures all service providers have access to the infrastructure required to supply competitive communications services, the commission said.
The SBAS will provide retailers with access to network services outside the NBN with a downstream data rate “normally more than 25 Mbps”. This includes the fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) network run by AAPT – a TPG subsidiary – and Telstra’s fibre networks in South Brisbane and Velocity estates, according to an ACCC statement.
“This is an acknowledgment that all superfast broadband networks, regardless of their size display natural monopoly characteristics,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. “What this access declaration does is provide retailers with the opportunity to enter superfast broadband markets, and in turn increase competition.”
“This decision will also help to simplify and clarify the existing regulations that apply to superfast broadband services, allowing all retail providers to compete on their relative merits, regardless of the technology used, when the network was constructed, or who operates it,” Sims said.
The new service will benefit consumers in the long term because “greater competition between retail providers, and more choice, can now occur”, he added.
According to the ACCC, the announcement of the SBAS declaration has prompted a public inquiry into the “price and non-price terms of access” that should apply to the SBAS.
The ACCC has set interim terms and conditions to apply for the next 12 months while it completes the inquiry. These have been “benchmarked to existing regulated prices for similar superfast broadband services”, including the NBN and other networks, it said.
In setting interim T&Cs, the ACCC taken into account concerns about the regulatory burden for smaller providers and has exempted any superfast broadband operators supplying less than 20,000 customers.
During the inquiry, the ACCC said, it will “look closely” at the likely compliance costs for these operators, and will consider the price benefits that competition can bring to consumers.
The ACCC added that the TransACT/iiNet VDSL network and the HFC network in regional Victoria – all owned by TPG – will also be exempt for now in order to allow sufficient time for these networks to be “reconfigured to supply an SBAS product”.