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Second Reading Speech: Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2019
The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2019, which I am introducing today, will, together with the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2019, improve the provision of superfast broadband in Australia.
The Bills were previously passed by the House of Representatives in 2018, but had not been passed by the Senate before the 2019 election. The Government is bringing them back largely as previously introduced. There are some amendments that are operational improvements. There are also some amendments to the Regional Broadband Scheme to adopt amendments moved by the Opposition when the Bills were previously before the Parliament.
The Competition and Consumer Bill contains three key measures.
Firstly, the bill will make carrier separation rules for superfast residential networks more effective and more flexible, giving carriers greater scope to invest in superfast networks and compete.
The changes to carrier separation rules will allow carriers, other than NBN Co, to operate fixed-line superfast networks with both wholesale and retail businesses (rather than to be wholesale only as is currently required).
Secondly, new statutory infrastructure provider (or SIP) obligations on NBN Co (and other carriers playing a comparable role) will support the ongoing delivery of superfast broadband services.
The SIP obligations will place an explicit statutory requirement on NBN Co (or other carriers playing a comparable role) to connect premises and supply wholesale superfast broadband services on reasonable request from a retail provider. The baseline speed to be supplied is 25 Megabits per second download and 5 Megabits per second upload.
NBN Co will need to take all reasonable steps to ensure that 90 per cent of premises connected to its fixed-line networks can receive broadband speeds of 50 Megabits per second download and 10 Megabits per second upload. NBN Co’s fixed-line networks should be able to connect at least 92 per cent of premises across Australia.
Thirdly, the Regional Broadband Scheme will establish a transparent and equitable funding mechanism to make sure NBN Co’s satellite and fixed wireless services can continue to provide superfast broadband to regional Australia.
All carriers would contribute $7.10 per month per premises where a broadband service is provided over their high-speed fixed-line networks. It is intended that the charge would apply to all premises serviced by fibre to the premises, fibre to the node, fibre to the basement, fibre to the curb and hybrid fibre‑coaxial networks.
The Regional Broadband Scheme charge has been designed to accommodate complex service types. For example, ‘local access line’ in the legislation includes customer cabling in multi‑dwelling units, like apartment blocks. This ensures that a premises in apartment blocks will be covered by the charge where a cable line is also used to supply carriage services to the unit.
The deeming provision under proposed subsection 76A(4) interacts with proposed section 94, which relates to ownership of ‘local access lines’. To minimise avoidance of the charge, subsection 76A(4) makes clear that customer cabling to a premises inside a multi‑unit building can be considered local access lines that are part of the local access network of a carrier, even if that carrier has no legal ownership of those cables.
Once established, the Regional Broadband Scheme will provide certainty for regional Australians that their essential broadband services will be maintained and available into the future.
The Government recognises that broadband technology is constantly evolving and new technologies may emerge at any time. The Government is committed to reviewing the Regional Broadband Scheme on a regular basis to make sure that the funding base remains appropriate. The Bill includes a requirement to conduct a review within four years of the Scheme commencing.
The Bill makes important changes to the regulatory framework to strengthen the provision of superfast broadband infrastructure across Australia. The changes put the customer experience front and centre by ensuring consumers can benefit from greater wholesale and retail competition, access superfast broadband under the statutory infrastructure provider obligation and are supported by sustainable funding arrangements for essential broadband services in regional, rural and remote Australia.
I commend the Bill.