Greenfields lobby group escalates NBN complaint

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Greenfields lobby group escalates NBN complaint

Lobbies for competition watchdog inquiry.

A consortium of greenfield fibre operators will escalate allegations of anti-competitive behaviour levelled against NBN Co, after a Productivity Commission investigation resulted in no action.

The Greenfield Fibre Operators in Australia (GFOA) lobby group - comprising operators OPENetworks, Comverge Networks and Service Elements - plans to make a formal complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in "the next few weeks".

The complaint will demand an investigation into NBN Co's behaviour in competing for new development work.

The group plans to claim NBN Co breached s46 of the Competition and Consumer Act by offering free installation to new housing estate developers, backed by Federal Government funding.

The GFOA argues its members can't compete with the government-funded NBN Co, giving the NBN wholesaler an unfair advantage in winning greenfields work.

"Greenfield operators still labour under an anti-competitive arrangement which is designed to create a monopoly on wholesale platforms," lobby group leader and OPENetworks managing director, Michael Sparksman, told iTnews.

"We had hoped that the ACCC would investigate of their own volition but in view of the fact that they only seem to take it if there is a complaint, we'll have to submit one in the next few weeks."

The complaint comes after the group incited a Productivity Commission inquiry on the same grounds.

The commission found NBN Co's government-mandated status as 'fibre provider of last resort' in developments of 100 premises or more was murky and its involvement "will clearly have an effect on competition in that market segment".

However, the six-month inquiry concluded there was no formal breach of competitive neutrality rules, despite claims to the contrary by the lobby group.

Greenfields operators affected by NBN Co's entrance into the market have been forced to lower their pricing for fibre reticulation in new developments in order to compete.

But some have resolved to "grin and bear" the Productivity Commission's decision.

"I think the Government's position on this is wrong, very wrong," Opticomm general manager of regulatory and carrier relations, Phil Smith, said.

"I think the Productivity [Commission] has got it wrong and I think the NBN greenfields model still needs a lot of work."

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