ACCC approves NBN Co's special access undertaking

ACCC and NBN Co say SAU is flexible enough to weather changes to network
ACCC approves NBN Co's special access undertaking

NBN Co’s special access undertaking (SAU) has at last been approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The SAU will govern NBN Co's wholesale pricing and operations as the sole wholesaler for the National Broadband Network (NBN) until 2040.

“Having an accepted SAU in place, establishes a baseline from which future regulatory decisions can be made,” said NBN Co head of regulatory affairs and industry analysis, Caroline Lovell. “It also provides a settled basis for finalising the next set of commercial arrangements with our customers.”

While the NBN is in a state of flux—NBN Co yesterday proposed a new multi-technology model for delivering the national network—NBN Co and the ACCC said the final SAU should be flexible enough to be varied for any changes.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said most of the commitments in the SAU are technology neutral and would apply even the network design was changed.

“If, however, NBN Co wishes to vary the undertaking in the future in light of any new directions from the government, this can be accommodated,” he said.

NBN Co will also have the ability to withdraw the SAU, but the company must give 12 months’ notice to do so.

Today’s approval follows a long back-and-forth process that culminated with NBN Co submitting a varied SAU to the ACCC in late November.

The varied SAU incorporated the changes requested by the ACCC with only minor edits. The modifications including increasing the number of price reviews the ACCC can undertake; provisions that prevent NBN Co from varying existing products that might reduce the functionality or performance of them; and changes to the ACCC assessment of prudency and efficiency of NBN Co’s capital expenditure during the construction of the network.

“The process has taken some time, but it was important to make sure the SAU delivered a workable approach that would serve the needs of all parties, including consumers, over an extended period,” said Lovell.

Sims said the acceptance of the SAU is “a key milestone in establishing regulatory arrangements for the NBN.”

“This is a vastly different SAU than the version first submitted by NBN Co two years ago. Through the changes the ACCC requested and NBN Co has made, it is now a much more balanced instrument.”

The SAU can be read in full on the ACCC website.

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More about: ACCC, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
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