ACCC suspends assessment of NBN Co special access undertaking
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suspending its assessment of the Special Access Undertaking (SAU) lodged by NBN Co in the expectation that NBN Co will soon lodge a revised undertaking.
NBN Co lodged the SAU for assessment by the ACCC on 5 December 2011, setting out a proposed framework for access to NBN Co’s fibre, wireless and satellite networks. The ACCC has subsequently undertaken significant consultation with stakeholders regarding NBN Co’s proposals.
NBN Co has recently indicated to the ACCC that it intends to submit an amended SAU. NBN Co has provided an outline of its proposed amendments to the ACCC, and is in the process of developing this into a detailed undertaking. This outline will be published on the ACCC website.
“NBN Co has taken a step forward in developing this proposal in response to feedback on its original SAU. It is a constructive move towards establishing reasonable access arrangements for the NBN,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC sees merit in the proposal. For example, the proposed modular design balances NBN Co’s requirement for certainty on long-term cost recovery with the need to undertake regular reviews of the detailed terms of access.”
“Similarly, the proposal that the revised SAU will specify reference offers and use a building block model to determine revenue constraints on NBN Co appears to provide some reasonable constraints on NBN Co’s pricing over time.”
The ACCC notes that NBN Co will need to undertake further work to develop its high level proposal into a new SAU. As is its usual practice, the ACCC will undertake pre-lodgement discussions with NBN Co on the implementation of its revised approach. The ACCC also intends to host a further discussion with industry on the proposal.
Mr Sims reiterated the ACCC’s expectation that the regulatory framework established by the SAU should be in place prior to the execution of longer term Access Agreements between NBN Co and access seekers.
Given that current contractual arrangements expire before the end of the year, the ACCC will work with NBN Co towards timely lodgement of any amended undertaking. However, a revised undertaking would necessarily be subject to a fresh round of formal consultation with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders as part of the ACCC’s assessment process.
As NBN Co is still in the process of developing the new SAU, Mr Sims indicated that it was optimistic to expect that the ACCC would be able to complete its assessment before the end of 2012.
It is therefore possible that NBN Co and access seekers will need to agree upon interim contractual arrangements.
Should the pre-lodgement discussions reach a point where the ACCC considers receipt of an amended undertaking is unlikely, the ACCC will move to finalise its decision on the current SAU. In this event, it is possible that the ACCC would extend the deadline for its decision.
The ACCC will make further announcements about the timing and next steps of that assessment process in due course.