Legislation underpinning the AUD11 billion (USD10.7 billion) deal between Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra and the public-private company set up to oversee the construction of the country’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has been passed by the Senate, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposals, which also pave the way for the structural separation of Telstra, looked to have stalled earlier this week following reports that an independent senator was looking to defer a vote on the laws until the release of the NBN Co’s business plan, which was not initially scheduled to take place until December. However, after news that the business plan had been released early, the Senate has now passed the bill, known as The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010, and subject to another vote in the lower house on Monday next week, which is thought to be nothing more than a formality, it will subsequently pass into law. ‘Australia has the fifth-most expensive broadband charges amongst OECD countries, and this bill will help to bring prices down by allowing greater competition in the sector,’ communications minister Stephen Conroy said of the matter.
Telstra CEO David Thodey meanwhile has said that his company hopes to finalise the deal with NBN Co by 20 December 2010, following which it will be reviewed by the relevant regulatory authorities and voted on by Telstra shareholders. Under the terms of the agreement Telstra has agreed to mothball parts of its existing copper infrastructure as the fibre-based NBN is rolled out, while it will also be broken into separate retail and wholesale networks, a move designed to prevent its retail unit from getting a better deal than that offered to rivals using its network.