NBN Co draft legislation unveiled

Federal Government releases two draft bills for the operation of the company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The Federal Government has unveiled draft legislation for the regulatory framework for the operation of NBN Co.

The release of two bill drafts – National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 and Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 - come after a public consultation process that received more than 30 submissions.

The first draft bill sets out the "ownership, governance and sale arrangements" for NBN Co, which has been tasked with rolling out the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) plan.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment bill details "access arrangements for NBN Co that reflect its wholesale-only status".

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said in a statement that the drafts were an important first step "providing certainty on how NBN Co will operate and what its obligations will be".

"Before we introduce the bills formally we are keen to seek further feedback from key stakeholders to ensure we get the details right," Conroy said. "We have an open mind on any amendments put forward that we believe can improve the bills."

The government said it will introduce the bills into Parliament during Autumn or Winter sittings "depending on the feedback received".

Interested parties should submit comments to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) at nbnlegislation@dbcde.gov.au before 15 March 2010.

The draft Bills can be viewed on the DBCDE website.

Competitive Carriers Coalition executive director, David Forman, welcomed the announcement as an opportunity for the industry to provide feedback.

“It is important that the community has a chance to examine this legislation in draft form," Forman said in a statement.

“Competitors, for example, will want to know if the government has properly defined ‘wholesale’ or if we believe there is room for improvement.

“There is no excuse for this Bill to be delayed any longer. In fact, it would be to the eternal shame of the Senate if it were not to be passed,” he added.

Notable elements of the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 include:

  • NBN Co can only supply eligible services to a carrier or a service provider. But the Communications Minister can allow exemptions to this rule, such as for the provision of services directly to government agenices
  • NBN Co cannot provide content services but must remain wholesale only
  • The Commonwealth must "retain majority ownership of NBN Co until such time as a declaration is made by the Communications Minister"
  • "Section 22 provides that the Minister must initially declare, by 30 June 2018, that the National Broadband Network (NBN) should be treated as built and fully operational". This declaration must be table in Parliament within 15 days. However, the minister can declare 12-month extensions to the deadline for as long as the minister sees fit.
  • "The Finance Minister must, within five days of the Communications Minister declaration, declare either that conditions are suitable for entering into and carrying out an NBN Co sale scheme, or, if conditions are not suitable, a ‘declared sale deferral period’. The Finance Minister can extend or further extend the five year period for a period of no more than 12 months."
  • NBN Co will be obliged to report financial statements (section 52); "significant events"; operational matters to the communications and finance ministers; and a corporate plan at least once a year
  • NBN Co and its subsidiaries will not be bound by the Public Works Committee Act 1969

Notable elements of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 include:

  • This draft bill proposes amendments to the and the Telecommunications Act 1997 to "introduce new access and equivalence obligations relating to the supply of wholesale services by NBN Co, and any wholly-owned subsidiaries, including NBN Tasmania Limited"
  • NBN Co must offer services on a non-discriminatory basis. This means access seekers in "like circumstances will be able to obtain equal access to services on the same terms and conditions"
  • NBN Co is not obliged to upgrade or change its networks should access seekers try to demand this in order to get different services

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Tags NBNnbn coSenator Stephen ConroyNational Broadband Network (NBN)

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