Tuesday, April 23, 2024

ACCC Extends Wholesale Price Controls to Superfast Fixed-line Broadband

Australians on broadband plans provided by non-NBN fixed-line networks should benefit from more stable pricing and greater competition between retailers, following an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) decision to make a final wholesale access determination for the declared superfast broadband access service (SBAS).

TPG and Uniti Group Limited are the two largest suppliers of the SBAS. Their networks combined cover more than one million premises, primarily in apartment buildings and new residential housing estates. In many areas they are the sole fixed-line broadband network operator.

The access determination sets maximum wholesale prices and other important terms and conditions for retailers to access the networks. The regulation will apply if the network owners and retailers cannot reach satisfactory commercial agreements.

“We have made this access determination so the one million or so Australians who rely on these networks for internet at their homes or businesses can select from a broader range of retailers and offers that can better meet their needs,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.

“The final regulation we’ve settled on contains specific price terms, benchmarked against NBN Co’s pricing, that will enable consumers and businesses to find retail offers that are similar to, or better than, those available on the NBN.”

Regulated monthly prices for the 25/5 and 50/20 Mbps speed tiers will give retailers greater certainty over the access costs they pay. Because of the benchmarking against equivalent NBN access costs, retailers will be able to develop consistent product offerings to consumers across all networks.

The changes will put downward pressure on the wholesale cost to access the entry level 25/5 Mbps service and the popular 50/20 Mbps service. The ACCC expects the regulated price terms for the 50/20 Mbps speed tier will also constrain wholesale prices for higher speed tiers.

The access determination will also regulate connection, transfer, and appointment charges for SBAS networks, which will make it easier for households to switch retailers and will limit their potential exposure to missed appointment fees or other ad hoc charges.

“We’re confident that our final decision strikes the right balance between protecting the long-term interests of consumers and allowing the network providers to earn the revenues required to continue to invest and improve their networks over time,” Ms Brakey said.

The new access determination will come into force on 1 September 2024 and apply until 1 March 2027.

The ACCC consulted extensively with the SBAS providers, retailers, industry, and consumer groups throughout its inquiry.

More information on the SBAS and the ACCC’s final report on the inquiry is available at SBAS final access determination inquiry 2021.

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