Update: The Government has introduced amendments to legislation pertaining to the National Broadband Network (NBN) in an attempt to remediate concerns over anti-cherry picking laws and NBN Co's wholesale-only obigation.
Cherry-picking refers to ISPs implementing their fibre networks to undercut the NBN Co in high-density areas prior to the NBN’s rollout. These ISPs can then charge less for their services than NBN Co because they don’t need to subsidise the rollout of a network in low-density and higher-cost regional locations.
Rules to prevent cherry-picking were introduced to Parliament in the form of the NBN Access Bill last year.
ISPs have raised concerns over the laws since it might impede on planned upgrades for existing private fibre networks.
The new amendments were flagged by Greens communication spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, this morning. At the Senate hearing today,he was hesitant to discuss in detail the Greens’ concerns over the NBN Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (NBN Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010.
Senator Mark Arbib, on behalf of Senator Conroy, announced the amendments at the Senate hearing. He said the series of amendments clarify how the anti-cherry picking provisions work and where they are applied.
According to Senator Arbib, minor extensions to existing fibre networks and new customers connected on existing networks will be excluded from the provisions.
“As indicated last December, the Government will also propose amendments to the level playing field provisions to add to a wholesale-only requirement,” he said.
Senator Arbib also used the opportunity to deny accusations from the Coalition that the NBN will never be privatised and it will encroach on the retail space through providing services directly to utilities.
The new amendments to legislation concerning the National Broadband Network (NBN) are being drafted by the Federal Government, according to Greens communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam.
Speaking at a Senate hearing, Senator Ludlam was hesitant about discussing in detail the Greens’ concerns over the NBN Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (NBN Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010.
“I believe there are Government amendments about to be circulated that will attempt to address some of the issues I’m going to canvas here,” he said.
The amendments will discussed at the committee stage of the NBN legislation debate.
This new development has incited the Coalition.
Queensland Senator, Ian Macdonald, said the Senate hearing was a waste of time now but he was eager to discuss some of the issues that came out of the enquiry.
The Environment and Communications Legislation Committee had recommended the NBN Companies Bill to be passed in a report published last week.
“So what we are supposed to be debating – I’m not quite sure about,” he said. “I can’t really say too much because the [new] legislation is not before us.
“What are we doing here?”
Echoing the words of South Australian Senator, Ann McEwen, Senator Macdonald said this was an example of another one of the Labor Party’s “socialist legislation”.
“It’s completely dysfunctional, completely un-thought through [sic] and completely without a modicum of business or commercial honesty.”
During today’s Senate hearing, the Coalition has accused the Government of planning to back down on plans to privatise the NBN.
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