ACCC clears NBN Co and RSPs for COVID cooperation

By Amy Sarcevic
Wednesday, 01 April, 2020

ACCC clears NBN Co and RSPs for COVID cooperation

NBN Co has received permission from the ACCC to form a special working group with its competitors, aimed at improving the efficiency of telecommunications networks during the COVID-19 crisis.

Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like working from home, home-schooling and social distancing, have generated unprecedented demand for telecommunications networks across the nation. At times of peak demand this has exceeded the capacity of existing supply networks, causing outages and delays.

The supply shortfalls have created an uproar among the business community, many of whom are juggling multiple challenges — like managing a virtual and ‘skeletal’ workforce, against tight budgets and in uncertain conditions.

In addition to NBN Co, the working group will consist of the five largest retail service providers in Australia including Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison and TPG.

As per the request of the Minister of Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, it will enable the normally tightly regulated industry to collaborate more effectively and deliver a whole-of-sector response to this challenge. Ultimately, it will help the business and wider community remain connected during this difficult time.

A spokesperson for NBN Co said, “NBN Co has welcomed the ACCC announcement today authorising the telecommunications industry’s cooperative and collaborative approach to help support Australian residential and business customers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are pleased that the ACCC has moved swiftly to grant the necessary permission that allows NBN Co to continue to lead and coordinate the whole-of-industry response within the telecommunications and communications sector, and we recognise and appreciate the resolve and commitment of our industry partners during this time.”

Under normal circumstances, this level of collaboration among market competitors would not be allowed. As such, the ACCC will closely supervise the working group and ensure that decisions will not adversely impact industry participants excluded from the group. It will have authority to rescind the permission and dismember the group at any time.

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