NBN Co has withdrawn the proposed variation to its Special Access Undertaking (SAU) it lodged with the ACCC in March 2022, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) saying the company will now submit a new variation proposal after consulting with industry. Recall, the SAU forms a key part of the regulation of the National Broadband Network (NBN), setting out the long-term regulatory framework for the supply of services over that infrastructure, including elements such as minimum service standards and price caps.
In a press release regarding NBN Co’s withdrawal of its proposed variation to the SAU, the ACCC noted that a consultation on the plans had previously identified ‘a range of potential issues’, while it highlighted the fact that submissions that consultation from the telecommunications industry were ‘generally not supportive’.
‘NBN Co withdrawing its March proposal brings to an end our formal consideration of it,’ said ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey, adding: ‘NBN Co has told us they will soon submit a new proposed variation that reflects the change in the policy landscape as well as industry feedback through the ACCC’s consultation process.’ An industry meeting is set to be hosted by the ACCC next month to allow NBN Co and its stakeholders to present their views on a revised variation to the SAU, while the regulator will publicly consult on the revised proposal, when it is submitted, with a view to finalising its review ‘by early 2023’.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland issued her own statement related to the matter, confirming she had written to NBN Co outlining the government’s expectations in relation to the SAU variation process. Notably, the minister highlighted the fact that, with the new government – which came to power in May 2022 – seeking to prioritise the ‘long-term interests of Australian consumers’, this meant focusing on ‘affordable prices and a quality, resilient network’. According to Rowland, in contrast to that the SAU variation lodged in March 2022 under the former government would have allowed NBN price increases of inflation plus 3% per year on some products, and it was said to have been ‘underpinned by unrealistic revenue expectations, and reflected a view to privatisation’. As such, the minister said she supported NBN Co’s withdrawing of its current variation proposal.