Telstra makes “substantial revisions” to SSU, submits to ACCC

Telstra makes “substantial revisions” to SSU, submits to ACCC

Consumer watchdog expect to make a final decision on the revised structural separation undertaking in February 2012

After some delay, Telstra has submitted its revised structural separation undertaking (SSU) to the Australian Competitions and Consumers Commission (ACCC), an important part of its $11 billion deal with NBN Co.

The telco had submitted a draft SSU to the ACCC in August which was met with scathing reviews from the telco industry as well as the consumer watchdog.

Telstra was essentially told by the ACCC to resubmit the SSU to include more safeguards around transparency and equivalent access to the telco’s network for other operators.

The document is a vital part of Telstra’s deal with NBN Co since it details how the telco would separate its retail and wholesale business and would not pose as a direct competitor to the Government-owned company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN).

While the $11 billion deal was voted through by Telstra shareholders last month, the SSU still has to be approved by the ACCC.

Telstra has since made several changes to the SSU including “a clarification the [document] does not constrain the ACCC’s powers to a greater extent than provided by the law”, “further commitments on service quality and operational equivalence” and “further commitments on provision of Telstra exchange access”.

The changes to the SSU are important but “do not constitute material change in the context of the transaction recently approved by Telstra shareholders,” the telco claimed in a statement.

The ACCC was pleased with the new submission.

“[We] welcome the substantial revisions and additional commitments that Telstra has made in order to address ACCC and industry concerns about equivalence and transparency,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said in a statement. “However, it has become apparent through this and other processes that there are outstanding regulatory concerns in relation to wholesale ADSL services.”

Since the revised SSU still need to go through a round of a public consultation, Telstra and NBN Co have extended the end date for conditions to be met in their $11 billion deal.

Consultation process closes mid-January next year with the ACCC expected to make a final decision in the following month.

The Competition Carriers' Coalition (CCC), a telco industry association, has criticised the public consultation and ACCC decision schedule.

The CCC represents a number of telcos including Internode, iiNet, iPrimus, Macquarie Telecom, NextGen, TransACT and Vodafone.

"The timeframe for consideration and public comment is... inadequate - it is in the detail of the Undertaking that the question of whether or not competition and consumer interests are to be improved and assessment of that detail needs time," a CCC spokesperson said in a statement. "It has been the CCC’s very firm view that removing the exemptions and regulating DSL are threshold issues that require resolution prior to final assessment of the SSU. If any uncertainty remains on these issues, the Commission must reject the undertaking."

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Tags TelstraiiNetiprimusinternodeacccTransActmacquarie telecomNextgentelstra separationVodafone. telecommunications

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