The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has flagged potential competition issues in agreements between nbn and Telstra regarding Telstra’s role in building sections of the NBN.

In a September 2016 report, the ACCC outlined its concerns that the agreements may give Telstra a “head start” in connecting customers to NBN HFC broadband services, as well as preferential service activation and/or repair of NBN broadband services for its own customers, and greater insight than its competitors into the NBN rollout.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said, “nbn and Telstra have said that one of the benefits of these commercial agreements is that it will facilitate a faster rollout of the NBN, which the ACCC acknowledges, but we also recognise that there are potential competition implications and the effect of these on end users is just as important.”

The ACCC said nbn and Telstra had agreed to a number of measures that the ACCC considers would mitigate the potential risks to competition, which the ACCC would continue to monitor.

These measures include:

  • Making NBN HFC connections available to all service providers simultaneously, to avoid Telstra getting a “head start” following its installation of them
  • nbn setting priorities on activation and repair work that it allocates to Telstra, requiring Telstra to follow those priorities and de-identifying work orders from other RSPs
  • Telstra providing “white label” activation and repair services to nbn and requiring its field workforce follow non-discrimination rules when attending end-user premises.

“The ACCC is pleased at the progress made to date in terms of these agreements, but there’s still work to do to address our remaining concerns,” Mr Sims said.

“We will ontinue to monitor the relationship between nbn co and Telstra, and ensure that Telstra’s contracts with nbn co do not give it an advantage over its competitors in providing superfast broadband services over the NBN.”

The ACCC said it was now working to ensure all access seekers had more rollout information, and received reports on whether or not they were receiving equivalent treatment.

The nbn-Telstra service delivery agreements were announced on 21 December 2015 and 11 April 2016 and include the supply of network activation and assurance services and network planning, design, construction, and construction management services.

In preparing this report, the ACCC consulted with a number of broadband retail service providers and raised a number of potential concerns with nbn and Telstra to ensure that they were known to the parties as the details of the agreements were developed.

Accord to the ACCC, nbn and Telstra did not make their binding agreements subject to ACCC approval. Nor did the parties defer implementing them during the ACCC’s review.

The ACCC said the next step would be to establish suitable arrangements for monitoring of the implementation of the agreements, including nbn’s reporting of rollout information to its access seekers, ahead of the HFC construction program reaching scale later in 2016.

Utility Journalist

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