ACCC consulting on future of NBN regulation

23 May 2022

NBN Co’s proposed variation to its Special Access Undertaking (SAU), which is a key part of the regulation of the National Broadband Network (NBN), has been published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). With the undertaking setting the maximum prices and terms and conditions for broadband providers to access the NBN until 2040, the ACCC has released an accompanying consultation paper on the proposal and has called for feedback from interested parties.

In a press release regarding the development ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said: ‘The [SAU] exists to promote competition and efficiency in Australia’s broadband market, to the benefit of households and businesses … The variation will influence the price, quality and range of broadband offers in the market for the next two decades. Before we decide whether to accept NBN Co’s proposed variation, we are conducting a public consultation to hear from the retailers who sell NBN services, other service providers, and households and businesses that rely on the NBN for their broadband.’

Of note, the variation reportedly seeks to incorporate fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and other copper-based technologies in the SAU, with a view to creating a single regulatory framework that covers all network technologies. At present, the existing SAU – which has been in place since 2013 and is scheduled to operator until 2040 – only applies to a subset of network technologies, namely fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fixed wireless and satellite. However, with such connections accounting for only around one quarter of the NBN’s assets, it has been suggested that extending it to cover the other technologies would bring the majority of NBN assets into this regulatory framework. Meanwhile, NBN Co’s variation also proposes significant changes to product and pricing commitments, the framework for its cost recovery, and rules for how the ACCC assesses network expenditure.

A deadline of 8 July 2022 has been set by the ACCC for submissions to its consultation.