- Because of the Chatham House rule under which the eight-hour event was held, participants of ACCC's industry roundtable on June 19, 2021 were unable to disclose who said what, whether to colleagues or to media outlets.
- NBN Co did state that it saw the initiative as an opportunity to receive feedback on proposals to vary the Special Access Undertaking, as well as explore alternatives.
- NBN Co has said that it is committed to collaborating with the ACCC and the rest of the telecommunications industry to come up with solutions that meet the needs of both parties as well as deliver great value for consumers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission held an industry roundtable on June 19, 2021, to discuss the future of the NBN access regime. Because of the Chatham House rule under which the eight-hour event was held, participants were unable to disclose who said what, whether to colleagues or to media outlets.
Because of this, non-participants don’t have much information about what took place. Most relevant, perhaps, is that the roundtable came to an end with no one the wiser about what practical impact it could have on any decisions made in the future. However, NBN Co did state that it saw the initiative as an opportunity to receive feedback on proposals to vary the Special Access Undertaking, as well as explore alternatives, and so the organisation welcomed the exercise.
The meeting itself was held in a small venue in downtown Sydney, and physical participation was limited to two people per organisation, with others participating through videoconference. Sources have suggested that this limit on physical participation also limited the efficacy of the event, as any potential real conversation was “likely taking place at coffee breaks and lunch.”
Some have also opined that the ACCC and Australian Communications and Media Authority were the dominant participants in the event, as far as listening to RSPs and asking them about their views on the NBN access regime goes. And, not surprisingly, a major topic for discussion was dissatisfaction with volatile usage pricing.
Without giving any details, NBN Co has said that it is committed to collaborating with the ACCC and the rest of the telecommunications industry to come up with solutions that meet the needs of both parties as well as deliver great value for consumers. That’s why they welcome and appreciate constructive engagement and feedback, and are open to alternate proposals and variations to the pricing constructs set in the telco’s discussion paper as well as its Special Access Undertaking, or SAU.
This last is what inspired the roundtable, and yet the latter plays no formal role in the process of NBN Co’s varying the SAU.
The current SAU was drafted in the FTTP era, and so does not apply to the HFC and FTTN/C networks that have been built since then. NBN Co tried to remedy this in 2016 by varying the SAU, but the ACCC rejected the variations in 2017 on what seemed to be minor technical objections that were not related to pricing in any way.
Not long ago, NBN Co issued a consultation paper putting forth three pricing options that involved various tradeoffs between access and usage charges. Included was a promise to ratify current use of off-tariff bundles as formally tariffed products. But that isn’t enough. According to the legislative process, NBN Co has to lodge variations with the ACCC for either acceptance or rejection. Either decision should be based on whether the variations comply with anti-discrimination provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Likewise, the ACCC can propose variations that NBN Co can either accept or reject.
With the industry roundtable concluded, and NBN Co’s declaration, only time will tell what changes the organisation will make to its SAU, and how said changes will impact the industry and consumers.