Senate committee endorses telco reform bills

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Friday, 08 September, 2017

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The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications has recommended the passage of the government’s new telecoms reform package.

The package consists of two bills covering areas including providing sustainable funding for the loss-making operation of nbn fixed wireless and satellite services for regional areas.

The legislation would also create new statutory infrastructure provider obligations and reforming the level playing field rules requiring separation of wholesale and retail high-speed broadband businesses.

Recognising the fact that the fixed wireless and satellite components of the nbn are expected to incur losses of $9.8 billion over 30 years, the reform package would establish a new regional broadband scheme to fund these costs.

The scheme would be 95% paid by nbn, with the remaining 5% paid by competing wholesale high-speed broadband networks. The cost of nbn services will not be affected as the subsidy is already baked into existing prices.

In addition, the reform package would replace the ageing universal service obligation that ensures every Australian can access voice-only standard telephone services with new statutory internet provider (SIP) obligations to ensure every Australian can access high-speed broadband.

The arrangement would give nbn a legislated obligation to connect premises to its network and supply wholesale services for each premise as the network becomes ready for service in individual areas. In cases such as new developments, other providers may take the SIP role.

Finally, the package would somewhat alleviate the requirement for competing fast broadband networks to operate separate wholesale and retail businesses.

The reform would allow providers to operate on a functionally separated rather than a strictly structurally separated basis. It would also remove the separation requirement for networks serving small businesses.

Image credit: ©alphaspirit/Dollar Photo Club

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