ACCC almost ready to talk NBN

Cost, access and coverage on the cards.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will begin serious discussions with industry about the cost and access framework for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Burning issues of wholesale access, coverage and service speeds will be hammered-out by the corporate watchdog over the next year, following a submission of NBN recommendations to the government's broadband expert panel.

A blanket gag order was installed at the commencement of the NBN tender, preventing public discussions on bidder proposals and further clarifications or responses from the government on the topic.

ACCC general manager of regulatory affairs Joe Dimasi said it is forbidden for it to discuss the NBN in detail.

“All we can offer is a tease of sorts. There are a lot of issues and the ACCC can't yet give out its views but we will have significant discussions over the coming year on the [big topics],” Dimasi said.

“The issue for developing NBN cost models is how to set values of existing infrastructure which is considered legacy or a sunk cost.

“The problems aren't all unique to telecommunications and are common in the utilities market, but they have settled on them and moved on.”

The watchdog's total service long-run incremental cost (TSLRIC) finance model will be assessed for its suitability to the NBN, along with utility models similar to those in place in the electricity and water sectors.

“A TSLRIC model means the industry will never move on like the utilities; [the NBN] model needs certainty, consistency and flexibility to give confidence and stability to investors,” Dimasi said.

A separate draft will be released in a month which will determine if Telstra must continue to supply shared and wholesale services in areas where Optus has laid Hybrid Fibre Coaxial cables, notably across parts of Queensland.

Customer migration from Line Sharing Services to the Unbundled Local Loop will take a maximum of three hours following an ACCC review of exchange capping. Telstra's rivals have previously launched bitter attacks and forwarded complaints to the ACCC over the time taken to activate DSL infrastructure for migrating customers, and allegations that the incumbent has lied about the number of available ports in exchanges.

“Migration has to be quick which has sometimes taken days or weeks. Customers must not be offline for more than three hours,” Dimasi said.

Telstra recently won reprieve from wholesale line rental obligations which were axed by the watchdog in exchanges holding DSLAM infrastructure from at least four competitors, or a service population of more than 14,000. Some 248 exchanges were exempted out of 387 put forward by Telstra.

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