Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra has announced that it has lodged a revised Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for approval. In the wake of the development, the telco’s CEO David Thodey said that the revised SSU had come following multiple rounds of public consultation, adding that the ACCC had publicly indicated Telstra had adequately responded to the issues raised. ‘I am pleased the ACCC has acknowledged that their concerns have been addressed and I note their commitment to consider the SSU promptly,’ Mr Thodey said. In the latest update to the SSU – a revised undertaking was, in fact lodged in December 2011 – changes are understood to include ‘clarification on the operation of the overarching equivalence commitment, and how wholesale customers access reference prices for regulated services.’ Telstra has, though, suggested that the alterations made to the SSU since it was first lodged back in July 2011 ‘do not constitute material change in the context of the Proposed Transaction approved by Telstra shareholders in October 2011.’
The ACCC’s acceptance of the SSU remains the key outstanding condition for the completion of Telstra’s deal with NBN Co, the public-private company overseeing the construction and management of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The issue has proved contentious, however, and as previously reported by CommsUpdate last month, the ACCC had come under increased pressure to reject what was then the most recent version of the SSU; submissions lodged by a number of Telstra’s rivals claimed that the plan was fundamentally flawed, with operators including Optus, AAPT, iiNet and Internode all weighing in on the matter. In its submission to the regulator, AAPT noted: ‘The revised SSU still suffers from fundamental flaws, which, unless adequately addressed by Telstra, means that the ACCC cannot be satisfied that the revised SSU provides for transparency and equivalence between Telstra’s wholesale customers and Telstra’s retail business unit in an appropriate and effective manner … The ACCC must therefore reject the revised SSU.’ A joint submission from iiNet, Internode, TransACT and Adam Internet, meanwhile, saw the aforementioned operators warn that limitations on the regulator’s ability to intervene in access disputes rendered the SSU ‘inappropriately weak’, while they also argue that the undertaking could pose wider problems for the country’s telecoms sectors if it is accepted without amendments being made that would enforce equivalence obligations on Telstra.