ACCC questions Telstra's fibre-to-the-node arrangements

Regulatory body says Telstra’s grip on fibre anti-competitive and could delay fibre to the home arrangements

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called for legislation to change fibre-to-the-node arrangements under the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout that would still leave Telstra in control of its copper network from the node to the home.

Speaking before a parliamentary joint committee on the NBN in Sydney, ACCC communications group general manager, Michael Cosgrave, said that there would be implications, including a delay to a fibre-to-the-home rollout, if Telstra retained ownership of the copper network.

“We have observed that fibre-to-the-node is not necessarily a step to fibre-to-the-home,” said Cosgrave.

“We have a problem that the builders of the network have employed a substantial capital cost to the node so they want to recover their cost. We also felt that the investment of public funds in nodes could serve to delay investment in fibre-to-the-home,” he said.

To overcome Telstra’s control of the copper network, the ACCC has argued that the structural separation of the telecommunications company, which is due to happen in 2018, is the best outcome. The ACCC is reviewing Telstra's undertakings and said in August that it could not accept a crucial aspect, saying the telco had no compliance plan for its commitment to structurally separate.

Cosgrave added that the ACCC was aware of a similar concern in New Zealand with Telecom NZ where there is no requirement for the copper network of Telecom to be disconnected.

“I don’t want to comment in detail but there is an Ultra-Fast Broadband [UFB] plan in process and the Chorus demerger arises as part of Telecom NZ wanting to be part of that,” he said.

Under the separation, which was approved in August by the New Zealand government, the telco’s network arm, Chorus, will become the major provider of fixed-line telecommunications to retail service providers, including Telecom.

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