Australian ISPs balk at proposed 30-year term for NBN Co’s SAU

5 Apr 2012

Australian internet service providers (ISPs) are reportedly balking at proposals in NBN Co’s Special Access Undertaking (SAU) that seek to establish a 30-year regulatory framework for the in-deployment National Broadband Network (NBN). According to iTnews, it is understood that operators such as Optus, AAPT, Macquarie Telecom and iiNet have suggested that such a lengthy term of regulation could mean a lack of regulatory recourse should any disputes with NBN Co – which is overseeing the construction and management of the network – arise. ‘Whilst Optus recognises the need for some level of certainty over access terms, NBN Co’s proposal risks locking the industry into a set of regulatory arrangements that may become outdated and unresponsive to the market conditions and the needs of end‐users,’ Optus was cited as saying.

The report notes that in submissions to the second-round of consultations regarding the SAU, AAPT and the Competitive Carriers Coalition have proposed that the term be shortened to ten years. A joint submission from iiNet, Primus and Adam Internet, meanwhile, is pressing for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to only accept the 30-year term on the proviso that NBN Co cedes more regulatory power. While fixed line incumbent Telstra has also previously called for changes to the proposed timeframe, it has yet to make a submission in this round of the study. For its part, NBN Co has sought to defend the proposed term, claiming that the longevity will provide regulatory certainty, which in turn will likely strengthen investor confidence in the network.

The ACCC will hold an industry forum later this month to examine this issue further, but a final decision is not expected until June 2012.