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No 'head start' for Telstra: ACCC sets broadband competition rules

The competition watchdog has a warning for Telstra: Even though you helped roll out the national broadband network, you shouldn't get an unfair advantage when it comes to selling it.

nbnconstruction-pit.jpg
NBN Co

Telstra might be intimately involved in building the NBN, but Australia's competition watchdog is warning the telco not to use its intimate knowledge of the NBN rollout to get a "head start" over other internet service providers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released a report into the deals signed between NBN Co and Telstra. Under the deals, Telstra provides services like network activation for fixed line connections on the network (including fibre to the premises, fibre to the node and HFC connections).

But while there are plenty of companies providing these services as part of the construction of the NBN, Telstra is the only company that also works as a retailer selling broadband to consumers.

As a result, the ACCC is keeping an eagle eye on the ISP to make sure it doesn't get an unfair advantage by working behind the scenes.

"NBN Co and Telstra have said that one of the benefits of these commercial agreements is that it will facilitate a faster rollout of the NBN, which the ACCC acknowledges, but we also recognise that there are potential competition implications and the effect of these on end users is just as important," said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

The ACCC has set guidelines to ensure consumers aren't getting a raw deal if they sign up for the NBN through one of Telstra's competitors.

These rules include:

  • Making HFC connections available to all ISPs simultaneously, so Telstra doesn't get a "head start" by doing the installation work first
  • NBN Co being the one to set priorities on activation and repair work that it allocates to Telstra
  • Requiring Telstra to provide "white label" activation and repair services, and requiring Telstra workers to follow "non-discrimination rules" when visiting premises

Telstra has agreed to the new guidelines.

"Telstra worked closely with the ACCC during this process and volunteered a number of measures to address their concerns and ultimately ensure the fast rollout of the NBN," said a Telstra spokesperson.

Under the deals signed with NBN Co, Telstra says its "technicians will not have Telstra uniforms and vehicles will not have Telstra branding." Similarly, for delivery of HFC services, "it will be NBN contractors doing the field work, not Telstra technicians."

Finally, Telstra says its technicians "do not get any bonuses or incentives for selling Telstra broadband or voice services to wholesale customers."