The ACCC Wants Your Opinion On The NBN

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Here's your chance to share your feedback. The ACCC is holding a Communications Sector Market Study, today opening the door to both industry and consumers on a range of issues from the NBN to data demand and mobile coverage.

It is time for a serious look at how we are preparing for the country's communications needs in an emerging digitally-enabled global economy, lobby group Internet Australia said, applauding the move.

"This market study provides an opportunity to examine competition in Australia's evolving communications markets, recognising the significant changes in how communications services are supplied and used," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

"The study will assist our understanding of how these trends are affecting competition and ensure regulatory settings remain responsive to drive good consumer outcomes."

Key matters to be covered by the study include the need to manage significant demand for data (which is expected to more than double each year for the next few years), the transition to the NBN and what this means for competition and meeting consumer expectations.

Internet Australia has previously called into question the National Broadband Network strategy based on Telstra's ageing copper wires.

"Without pre-empting what the ACCC might conclude, it is our view that under the Government's current directions the NBN will not be fit-for-purpose within 10 to 15 years. So it can only be hoped that the study will result in a much needed re-think about the communications infrastructure required for Australia to actually become an innovation nation".

2016 is the National Year of Digital Inclusion, an initiative to ensure that everyone has access to the Internet and the skills to use it.

"We are not just talking about economic issues. Universal access to the communication tools of the 21st Century is vital to our social development as well. People with disabilities and people leaving in rural, regional and remote Australia are telling us that they have for many years been left behind when it comes to broadband access," Internet Australia says.

"This has been inextricably linked to a lack of competition in these areas, something which the NBN project was intended to address by providing a ubiquitous broadband platform on which all RSPs (retail service providers) could compete on equal terms".

Internet Australia has recently called on the Government to review the performance of the NBN, citing concerns about the rate of subscriber take-up and a lack of accurate information about broadband performance. In a separate announcement the ACCC has proposed a Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting Program.

"It was recently revealed that while it has now "passed" three million premises only about one million have bothered to connect to the NBN." Internet Australia says. "Perhaps one of the reasons why NBN is having trouble securing customers is that people are uncertain as to the sort of Internet speeds they are likely to receive, especially given that there have been reports of people moving from their old ADSL service to the NBN and finding their Internet running slower".

One of the benefits of a monitoring and reporting scheme is that it would once and for all establish the speed differentials between the copper-based FTTN network and the technically superior FTTP network, Internet Australia says. "No doubt this issue will be considered by the ACCC in its Communications Sector Market Study".

The relationship between mobile and fixed-line networks, industry consolidation and the transition to a new market structure and the emergence of new technologies and delivery platforms will also be covered by the study.

Submissions are invited until 14 October 2016. The ACCC expects to release draft findings for comment in mid-2017 before publishing a final report in late 2017.

The ACCC has set up an online consultation hub which includes information summaries to assist consumers, businesses, and smaller retail service providers to submit their views. The ACCC will examine information collected from submissions and through further targeted consultation including specific information requests and potentially, public forums.

The ACCC has also today commenced an inquiry into whether to declare a mobile roaming service. The roaming inquiry is being undertaken separately to the market study so the roaming declaration question can be resolved ahead of the market study's conclusion. Broader issues in relation to the mobile sector will still be explored in the market study.

The ACCC uses market studies for a variety of reasons to support its various functions. Market studies enable the identification of competition issues, market problems, and possible solutions. Alternately, a market study may confirm competition in the relevant markets is functioning effectively and no action is needed.

The ACCC has been increasingly using market studies as a tool for this purpose. It has recently completed the East Coast Gas Inquiry and is currently undertaking market studies of the cattle and beef markets, the new car retailing industry and the dairy sector.

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