Internet Association supports Minister Rowland’s rejection of NBN Co SAU proposal

The Internet Association of Australia (IAA) has thrown its support behind the Communications Minister Michelle Rowland in rejecting NBN Co’s proposed variation to the Special Access Undertaking (SAU).

The IAA, a member-based association representing the Internet community, said on Wednesday that as NBN Co looks to re-start the SAU process, it calls for a “new approach to the framework that prioritizes providing all Australians with internet access that is affordable and fit-for-purpose”.

The IAA’s statement this afternoon was preceeded by a statement this morning by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that NBN Co had now withdrawn lodgement of the variation to its Special Access Undertaking.

“IAA welcomes the Minister’s call that the SAU variation should reflect changes in the policy landscape where NBN Co will remain in public ownership for the foreseeable future,” the association noted.

“This is a good opportunity to hold NBN Co to its fundamental purpose for existence and create the SAU accordingly,” said IAA CEO, Narelle Clark,

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“This national resource should be geared appropriately to providing high-speed, high-quality broadband to sustain Australian lives and economy,” Clark. said, adding that the Minister’s letter to ACCC “expressed the view that consumers and businesses are primarily concerned with the quality and service of NBN”.

“NBN Co’s proposed SAU did not add any commitment to improve its performance against standards,” said Clark.

“This would hurt both RSPs and the broader Australian public as prices for NBN would have kept rising despite failure to deliver service and sub-par technology choices. RSPs have long been blamed for NBN Co’s shortcomings. NBN Co should take a more holistic consideration of end-user reliability to fulfill its role.”

Clark said the IAA aknowledges a SAU variation is necessary given the changes to the technological landscape.. adding that the association looked forward to “continue engaging with NBN Co, the ACCC, industry and other stakeholders to ensure an SAU variation that best serves Australians and our economy.”

Here’s the ACCC’s full statement :

,NBN Co has withdrawn the variation to its Special Access Undertaking it lodged with the ACCC in March this year and will submit a new variation proposal after consulting with industry.

The Special Access Undertaking is a key part of the regulation of the NBN. It sets the rules for broadband providers to access the NBN over the coming decades, such as how the minimum service standards and price caps will be determined over time, to promote competitive and efficient markets that benefit consumers.

The ACCC’s consultation paper on NBN Co’s March proposed variation to the undertaking identified a range of potential issues with the proposal, and submissions to the ACCC from the telecommunications industry were generally not helpful.

Shareholder ministers this week also gave their support for more significant reforms being implemented through a revised variation proposal from NBN Co.

“NBN Co withdrawing its March proposal brings to an end our formal consideration of it,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“NBN Co has told us they will soon submit a new proposed variation that reflects the change in the policy landscape as well as industry feedback through the ACCC’s consultation process.”

The ACCC proposes to host an industry meeting in mid-August to allow NBN Co and its stakeholders to present their views on a revised variation to the undertaking. The ACCC will also publicly consult on the revised proposal, when it receives it, as required under the relevant legislation.

“Under the legislative regime we can only accept or reject a variation proposal, we cannot alter it. In deciding whether to accept it, we are required to promote the long-term interests of end users,” Ms Brakey said.

The shareholder ministers have told NBN Co that they expect it to provide support to broadband providers until a new variation comes into effect, and that interim commercial negotiations should leave providers no worse off. The ACCC will monitor these developments.

“When we receive NBN Co’s new variation proposal, we will review it and commence consultation as quickly as possible, so that the ACCC’s statutory process is finalized by early 2023. We are fully aware that broadband providers face commercial uncertainty without a variation to the undertaking in place,” Ms Brakey said.

“Importantly, our consultation will build on the submissions we’ve already received, and the meetings we had with the telco industry last year.”

Submissions made to the ACCC about the variation to the Special Access Undertaking are available at NBN Co SAU variation 2022″.

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