The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has confirmed that it will not prevent alternative provider TPG Telecom from connecting large apartment buildings in metropolitan areas to its existing fibre networks and to use fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) technology. Having concluded an investigation into the operator’s plans on the back of a complaint, the regulator has said it does not believe TPG would be in breach of the ‘NBN level playing field provisions’ in the Telecommunications Act; these provisions prohibit the use of networks other than the National Broadband Network (NBN) to supply high speed broadband services to small business or residential customers, unless the network operator supplies on a wholesale basis only and is subject to open access obligations.
In outlining the reasoning behind its decision, the ACCC noted that networks that were capable of being used to supply high speed broadband services to retail customers as at 1 January 2011 were not subject to the level playing field provisions, provided they are not extended more than a kilometre from the network footprint as it was at that date. As such, making public its decision the watchdog stated: ‘Having carefully examined TPG’s plans, the ACCC does not propose to take further action in relation to TPG’s planned fibre to the basement network rollout to supply residential customers in high-rise buildings in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth … The ACCC has reached this decision based on information and evidence that TPG’s networks were capable of supplying superfast carriage services to small business or residential customers at 1 January 2011, and confirmation that TPG is not extending the footprint of these networks by more than one kilometre.’
However, the ACCC has revealed it will now conduct a declaration inquiry into whether superfast broadband services such as those to be provided by TPG should be the subject of access regulation. Amongst other matters, the inquiry will reportedly consider ‘whether regulation is necessary to ensure that consumers in TPG connected buildings can benefit from competitive retail markets for high speed broadband services’.