news The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has aired concerns over potential competition issues raised by the commercial relationship between Telstra and NBN Co.
The Commission’s worries specifically relate to Telstra’s role in building portions of the National Broadband Network infrastructure, and have been set out in a new report.
“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,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.
The report outlines the ACCC’s concerns that the agreements may give Telstra a ‘head start’ in connecting customers to NBN HFC broadband services.
It could further receive preferential service activation, preferential repair of NBN broadband services for Telstra customers, and greater “insight” than its competitors into the NBN rollout, according to the Commission.
NBN Co and Telstra have, however, agreed a number of measures that the ACCC considers will “mitigate the potential risks to competition”, and which the regulator will continue to monitor.
These measures include:
- Making NBN HFC connections available to all service providers simultaneously to avoid Telstra gaining a ‘head start’ following its installation of them
- NBN Co setting priorities on activation and repair work that it allocates to Telstra, requiring Telstra to follow those priorities, and de-identifying work orders from other retail service providers
- Telstra providing ‘white label’ activation and repair services to NBN Co and requiring its field workforce follow non-discrimination rules when attending end-user premises.
“The ACCC is pleased at the progress made to date in terms of these agreements, but there’s still work to do to address our remaining concerns,” Sims said. “We will continue to monitor the relationship between NBN Co and Telstra, and ensure that Telstra’s contracts with NBN Co do not give it an advantage over its competitors in providing superfast broadband services over the NBN.”
The ACCC said it is now working to ensure all access seekers have more information regarding the rollout and receive reports on whether or not they are receiving equivalent treatment.
The NBN Co-Telstra service delivery agreements were announced on 21 December 2015 and 11 April 2016 and cover, amongst other things, the supply of network activation and assurance services and network planning, design, construction, and construction management services.
In preparing its report, the ACCC said, it consulted with broadband retail service providers and raised potential concerns with NBN Co and Telstra to ensure that they were known to both parties as the details of the agreements were developed.
“NBN Co and Telstra did not make their binding agreements subject to ACCC approval. Nor did the parties defer implementing them during the ACCC’s review,” the regulator said.
The next step in the matter will be to establish “suitable arrangements” for the monitoring of the implementation of the agreements, the ACCC concluded.
Image credit: Telstra