NBN committee calls for investigation into Greenfields fibre competition

A joint parliamentary committee examining the roll out of the NBN has backed industry concerns around the lack of competition for Greenfield fibre deployment

A joint parliamentary committee examining the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has called for the Federal Government to investigate whether competition will suffer at the hands of NBN Co as fibre is deployed in new developments.

Chaired by Independent MP, Rob Oakshott, the committee tabled its first report (PDF) around the Telecommunication Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011, which will govern the fibre rollout for the NBN, and has backed industry concerns around the potentially negative impact the government’s Fibre in New Developments policy would have for smaller fibre providers.

“The committee believes the Government should examine these issues with a view to ascertaining whether there is any negative impact on competition in the fibre provider market or service outcomes for the end user in the longer term,” the report reads.

The bill enables developers to install passive fibre-ready infrastructure in new developments and for NBN Co to be the “fibre provider of last resort in new developments”. However, the Greenfields Fibre Operators Association (GFOA) voiced concerns the policy would lead to NBN Co being the ‘first choice provider' in Greenfield developments and would diminish competition among fibre providers.

“It appears to be the intent of Government and NBN Co, that it plans and needs to be the monopoly provider of [Fibre to the Premises] FTTP in Greenfields developments,” the GFOA said in its submission.

“The Australian Government is ignoring its own Competitive Neutrality Policy for Government Owned Businesses, like NBN Co. The policy dictates that no competitive advantages should be given to Government Owned Business over private sector competitors by virtue of their public sector ownership, nor by using their fiscal or legislative powers.”

This sentiment was echoed by various members of the organisation, including OPENetworks, Comverge Networks and TransACT, separately to the GFOA submission.

The report noted that "that for developments of 100 premises or less, there have been instances where Telstra has provided a wireless service as there is a long wait for copper infrastructure and the NBN is pending. This level of service is not ideal and should only be an interim solution for customers."

It also cited a Government statement from 15 June around the refined fibre deployment in new developments pending the NBN, which clearly stated “Telstra will generally provide copper infrastructure. Telstra can choose to provide fibre ‘and in some limited circumstances ... due to a short timeframe between construction and fibre rollout’ as an interim solution, may ‘provide high-quality wireless services’.”

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