NBN Co has asked the government to release it from restrictions it says constrain its ability to compete with other carriers seeking to cherry-pick lucrative markets.
Regulation of competitive networks is emerging as a hot issue for the government, with TPG in particular touting a high-profile fibre-to-the-basement project connecting apartment buildings close to its PIPE Networks fibre footprint.
In its submission (PDF) to the government's review of telecommunications regulatory arrangements, NBN Co says where there is infrastructure-based competition, it should not be regulated as if it were a monopoly wholesale provider: “there arises a compelling case for removing the non-discrimination obligations in their entirety and for removing the obligations requiring NBN Co to supply only declared services”, it writes.
The non-discrimination obligations mean that NBN Co can't negotiate prices with individual carrier customers. While the provider can set prices for its services based on volume, the same terms are offered to all access seekers – something would hamstring NBN Co if other providers were to undercut its prices in metro markets.
The NBN Co submission also asks for competitors to be required to offer their own networks on a wholesale basis, so that those living in apartments serviced by a TPG or Telstra fibre connection would still be able to get services from their retailer of choice:
“If NBN Co is subject to regulation, then other competing providers should face the same regulatory framework as NBN Co, in order to create a level playing field and ensure that the long-term interests of end-users continue to be met. In such a scenario, for example, other providers should be subject to the same Standard Access Obligations as NBN Co and required to offer services on a wholesale basis,” the company writes.
The Competitive Carriers Coalition, which represents Optus, Vodafone, iiNet and others, issued a statement calling the NBN Co's submission “disappointing”.
Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has signalled that in its next access review, it may consider adding HFC networks to the list of "declared services", meaning that Telstra and Optus would be required to open their networks to competitive retailers. ®