The competition watchdog has temporarily granted NBN Co and Australia's five largest telcos authorisation to form a special working group to keep businesses and consumers connected and supported during the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), TPG and Vocus account for the five retail service providers (RSP) included in the group.
Currently the group is sharing information and coordinating strategies to mitigate congestion as well seeking “urgent authorisation” to provide support to small businesses and consumers experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 and measures taken to stem its spread.
The group was requested by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher and authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC said keeping Australia’s telecommunications network running is vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Online services and connections are now more important than ever, as Australians seek to stay productive and engaged, undertake home schooling, telehealth and access other services,” Sims said. “The ability to do all this will also assist people to comply with increasingly strict social distancing measures.
“As it has with a number of industries already, the ACCC stands ready to assist telecommunications providers with approval of any coordinated measures that are urgent and necessary during this crisis,” he added.
As a condition of forming the working group, NBN Co is required to “quickly inform” RSPs not part of the working group of any material decision made by the group that could affect them.
The ACCC will also be included as an observer to the group and can review the authorisation at any time.