ACCC moves closer to 'superfast' broadband regulation

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a draft decision on regulating a 'Superfast Broadband Access Service', with the ACCC set to compel the operators of 25Mbps+ services to open their networks to competitors.

The ACCC today released its draft decision on declaring an SBAS, which would make the service subject to regulation under Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Declaring an SBAS would allow the ACCC to set pricing for wholesale services.

"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," ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said in a statement.

"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."

The declaration would affect fixed line networks based on technologies than can offer 25Mbps+ download speeds to end users, including fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) and fibre to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp).

The ACCC draft decision would apply to a range of existing infrastructure including TPG's FTTB rollout, Sprit Telecom's FTTB networks, Telstra's FTTP Velocity and South Queensland networks, and iiNet's VDSL network in the ACT and HFC networks in regional Victoria.

Only to residential services would be captured by the declaration, and it would not cover the Telstra and Optus HFC networks, ownership of which is set to be progressively transferred to NBN.

The ACCC's inquiry began in September 2014 following the competition watchdog's verdict that TPG's move to roll out fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) to large apartment blocks was not a violation of the anti-cherry-picking rules designed to protect the National Broadband Network rollout.

The anti-cherry-picking rules are intended to stop high-speed broadband infrastructure that could undermine the NBN's business case being built by telcos in high-value or low-rollout-cost areas.

Teclos are prevented from rolling out broadband infrastructure capable of delivering 25Mbps+ download speeds unless they offer the service on a wholesale-only basis.

However, telcos can extend a 'superfast' broadband network that existed prior to 2011 by up to a kilometre.

In addition to protecting the NBN, the TPG rollout raised the potential for some apartment blocks to be limited to one retail supplier of superfast broadband services.

In the wake of the ACCC announcement, then-communications minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a new licence rule for telcos that forced companies to allow competitors to sell services on superfast networks.

The licence condition was intended as an interim measure while long-term regulatory arrangements were established.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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