- Mick Simmons confirms momentum was building for a government review into expanding the Regional Broadband Scheme $7 monthly levy.
- Uniti is only one among a few private operators required to fund the levy. It is also one of the few direct superfast fixed broadband rivals to NBN Co.
- Uniti has also been active in pushing the case for RBS expansion directly with federal politicians.
According to Uniti Group MD and CEO Mick Simmons, momentum was building for a government review into expanding the Regional Broadband Scheme $7 monthly levy. This is intended to cover wireless superfast broadband.
Uniti is only one among a few private operators required to fund the levy. It is also one of the few direct superfast fixed broadband rivals to NBN Co. However, there is growing sympathy for the notion of expanding the levy with the election season looming. In this case, there are political pressures to invest more heavily in broadband infrastructure. This is in an attempt to cover fixed wireless and perhaps even mobile services potentially.
Simmons said, “The debate emerging around the future of the RBS levy...in particular, this has occurred in Parliament’s review of the regional communications or subsidies for regional communications...the debate’s now lifted to the RBS levy extending across all technologies, not just fixed networks and the momentum is building for a review.”
“That review I anticipate will provide shareholders in the future, upside in earnings if it was to progress as the debate is indicating, at this point in time,” he further added.
Uniti has also been active in pushing the case for RBS expansion directly with federal politicians.
Effectively, there are now two senior cabinet ministers with dominion in the industry with Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie listing regional communications as part of her portfolios. This is in addition to another Nationals cabinet minister David Littleproud as a key critic of telecom industry practice. In parallel to this, Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser, effectively proposed an alternative regulatory regime for the telecom industry.
The telcos have already used the latest Regional Telecommunications Review to provide feedback on what they see as the vast subsidy schemes. These schemes support regional telecommunications, which include the near $300 Million fund directed to the universal service obligation of Telstra to provide voice services in regional Australia. It also includes the $700m collected by the Regional Broadband Scheme. This is intended to fund the regional broadband losses of the NBN. In addition, there are still hundreds of millions of dollars that are supposed to be allocated for more projects.
Meanwhile, NBN Co talks of the constraints it faces from its “current funding envelope” in its submission to the review. However, the network also details how its wireless platform could be used to “deliver even greater benefit with further funding and investment outside the company’s current budget constraints.”