The Australian competition watchdog is pressing pause on making a decision on proposed changes to nbn’s Special Access Undertaking (SAU) due to uncertainty around pricing.
An SAU is a key document outlining a voluntary undertaking given to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) by a telecommunications service provider specifying the terms and conditions upon which it agrees to supply its carriage service.
For the company behind the National Broadband Network, nbn, its SAU is a key document outlining its operation as a wholesale-only network operator.
Earlier this year, nbn submitted a revised variation to its SAU to incorporate the three additional technologies under the Government’s preferred multi-technology mix (MTM) rollout model: fibre-to-the-node (FTTN); fibre-to-the-building (FTTB); and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC).
Such a change would have the effect of extending the current SAU pricing arrangements to the new MTM services.
On 9 October, the ACCC announced that it would not make a decision on nbn’s proposed variation until the network provider further progresses its consultation with customers on its pricing model.
The rationale behind the decision to not make a decision, according to ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, is the desire for an industry-led process to inform the proposed changes.
Indeed, the ACCC said it is that nbn is consulting with its customers, including telecommunications companies that pay to access the NBN, on potential alternatives to the current pricing model.
“There has been a lot of discussion about [nbn’s] pricing, particularly around capacity issues and whether it is impacting consumers’ experiences on the NBN,” Sims said. “We think an industry outcome on NBN pricing is the best solution and preferable to a regulatory outcome.
“We welcome nbn Co’s initiative here and will let the process run its course,” he said.
Since the consultation may result in a change to nbn’s pricing model, the ACCC said it does not consider it appropriate to make a decision on the SAU variation at this time.
“If that process results in change to the pricing model and further changes to the SAU arrangements are required, then [nbn] will need to submit a new SAU variation to the ACCC,” Sims said.
The ACCC said it will progress its consideration of other aspects of the SAU variation, including certain non-price matters, so that it will be able to finalise the process when a position has been reached in relation to nbn’s pricing consultation.
The ACCC’s draft rejection had concerns relating to three matters: changes to service definitions that would allow future technologies introduced by nbn to be covered by the SAU without a further SAU variation; removing the definition ‘network boundary point’ from service definitions; and locking in provisions relating to ‘co-existence’ and ‘remediation’ for FTTN and FTTB services, which would allow nbn to provide services at lower data rates in certain circumstance, for the remainder of the SAU term.