Telstra’s pending South Brisbane fibre network will have to offer open access wholesale services and be subjected to ACCC scrutiny.
The announcement was made by Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy. The arrangement, enforceable from April 2012, will affect some of Telstra’s Greenfield fibre deployments as well.
Dubbed the Fibre Access Broadband Service, the wholesale broadband arrangement is aimed to provide fair and open access for ISPs looking to buy services from Telstra in affected fibre areas.
The ACCC has been armed with more regulatory powers to ensure that happens.
The decision was made after consultation with ACCC, ACMA and industry stakeholders.
“Provision of the wholesale service will support competition between service providers on these networks and offer greater choice for end-users,” Senator Conroy said in a statement.
The South Brisbane telephone exchange service area and specified Telstra Velocity networks have been exempted from "level playing-field arrangements" under parts of the amended Telecommunications Act 1997 introduced in the National Broadband Network (NBN) access act. Telstra applied fro these exemptions last year.
Level playing-field arrangements require "super-fast broadband networks" to be wholesale-only and is regulated by the ACCC.
Senator Conroy stressed while he has authorise these exemptions, it is important to note Telstra wholesale broadband services will still be under the scrutiny of the ACCC. These exemptions only apply while the NBN is being rolled out and can be revoked if Telstra backs out of its commitment to structurally separate the company.
Telstra is currently in the process of rolling out fibre in that area in preparation for the new Queensland Children’s Hospital. The first services were switched on in June 2011.
Since Telstra would be switching off the copper in the South Brisbane telephone exchange area, local residents will be forced to move onto the fibre network for their phone and broadband. Around 18,000 services will be upgraded. Migration of services is expected to be completed by December this year.
As a strong opponent of the plan, Primus CEO, Tom Mazerski, spoke out against the move, claiming Telstra would charge higher prices for fibre services even though some people may be happy to stick with a cheaper fibre service.
He was also critical of the lack of regulatory oversight with the South Brisbane exchange which may lead to Telstra charging more when competitors like Primus look to access wholesale fibre services in the area.
Mazerski could not be reached for a comment at the time of publication.