NBN formally withdraws Special Access Undertaking; revised version expected soon

11 Sep 2012

NBN Co, the public-private company overseeing the construction and management of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), has formally withdrawn its Special Access Undertaking (SAU), the Australian Financial Review reports.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in June 2012 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that it was suspending its assessment of the SAU, which will work in tandem with NBN Co’s wholesale broadband agreement (WBA), and sets out the terms of access to the in-deployment fibre infrastructure over the life of the operator’s 30-year corporate plan. At the time, the regulator suggested that its decision had been made due to an ‘expectation that NBN Co will soon lodge a revised undertaking’. The formal withdrawal of the document means that the ACCC no longer has to approve or reject the SAU by the previous deadline of 17 September 2012. On the back of this latest development, meanwhile, NBN Co’s head of product management and industry relations, Jim Hassell, was cited as having said in a letter to the ACCC that it expects to submit a revised SAU for assessment ‘very shortly’.

A number of elements of the original SAU had been criticised by industry players, with local internet service providers (ISPs) having reportedly balked at proposals that sought to establish a 30-year regulatory framework for the in-deployment NBN. Operators such as Optus, AAPT, Macquarie Telecom and iiNet in April 2012 suggested that such a lengthy term of regulation could mean a lack of regulatory recourse should any disputes with NBN Co arise. The pricing model too was queried, with fixed line incumbent Telstra understood to have argued that NBN Co was overestimating its capital costs, complaining that the proposed usage charges would lead to sharp increases in retail prices.