Australia opens up high-speed broadband

The country's competition watchdog's decision has forced TPG and Telstra to broaden access to their networks, which it says 'display natural monopoly characteristics'.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has decided to widen access to wholesale high-speed broadband services in a bid to bolster competition and bring down prices.

The commission's “superfast broadband access service” declaration allows retailers to access non-national broadband network services with a downstream data rate above 25Mbps. This includes the fibre-to-the-basement network operated by TPG subsidiary AAPT as well as Telstra’s fibre networks in South Brisbane and Velocity estates. 

“Once a service is declared, a network owner must provide access to the service upon request and where commercial agreement cannot be reached, the ACCC must determine regulated price and non-price terms. Declaration ensures all service providers have access to the infrastructure they need to supply competitive communications services to end-users,” the ACCC said in a statement. 

The commission has set interim price and non-price terms and conditions of access for the next 12 months, while it completes a public inquiry. During the consultation, the ACCC will look closely at the likely compliance costs for these operators, being mindful of the price benefits competition can bring to end-users. 

Interim prices for entry level services are benchmarked to existing regulated prices for similar superfast broadband services, on the national networks and others. 

“This is an acknowledgment that all superfast broadband networks, regardless of their size, display natural monopoly characteristics. What this access declaration does is provide retailers with the opportunity to enter superfast broadband markets, and in turn increase competition,” said Rod Sims, ACCC chairman. 

“The decision will also help to simplify and clarify the existing regulations that apply to superfast broadband services, allowing all retail providers to compete on their relative merits, regardless of the technology used, when the network was constructed, or who operates it.”