Government extends ‘superfast broadband’ regulation while legislation languishes

Public consultation on extension of carrier licence condition

The federal government has launched a public consultation on extending a licence condition for telecommunications carriers that is intended to protect the commercial viability of the National Broadband Network.

The licence condition was first unveiled in 2014 by then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull. It forces carriers that operate ‘superfast’ (25Mbps+) broadband networks for residential customers to offer access to the retail arms of rival telcos.

The regulation was imposed after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it wouldn’t stop TPG from rolling out fibre to the basement services in metro areas where the telco already had network infrastructure.

‘Anti-cherry-picking’ rules designed to protect the commercial viability of the NBN impose strict limits on the network infrastructure that telcos can roll out. However, network operators can extend a superfast broadband network that existed prior to 2011 by up to a kilometre — potentially allowing TPG and other telcos to target high-value, low-cost markets such as the inner suburbs of major cities.

The licence condition was intended to be a stopgap measure and will expire on 30 June 2018 if the government does not extend it.

The government in June 2017 introduced the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2017. The bill will provide ongoing functional separation arrangements for carriers but has it has yet to be passed by either house of parliament.

The related Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2017, which will introduce an industry subsidy scheme to help fund NBN’s unprofitable services in regional and rural areas, is also yet to be passed by either house.

The government has proposed extending the Carrier Licence Conditions (Networks supplying Superfast Carriage Services to Residential Customers) Declaration until 30 June 2020. Details of the consultation are available online.

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Tags broadbandTelecommunicationsNational Broadband Network (NBN)Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

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