NBN favouritism called out by TPG, Superloop

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NBN favouritism called out by TPG, Superloop

Growing anger over double standards.

Rules that make it simpler for NBN Co – but not other carriers – to deploy network infrastructure should be opened up to the rest of the industry, according to TPG and Superloop.

NBN Co was the driving force behind two sets of changes that passed in 2011 and 2015 applying to the types of infrastructure telcos can install without needing council permission.

They cover the installation of assets such as nodes, enclosures, cabling, termination devices and other network equipment.

Now, a further set of changes to the same “low-impact facilities” rules is being considered, which, if approved, would expand the types of antennas and poles that NBN Co can deploy outside local planning rules.

But other carriers are prevented from taking advantage of these rules, because they apply only to operators of a “national network, used, or for use, for the high-speed carriage of communications on a wholesale-only and non-discriminatory basis".

That has riled the likes of TPG and Superloop, which believe any changes to telecommunications rules should benefit the entire industry, not just one player.

TPG believes that changes made in 2011 and 2015 should be opened up to "all carriers".

Alternatively, it wants to be offered access to rules that have proven uncontroversial since being introduced in 2011 and 2015, although it favours the simpler approach of just opening everything.

"As NBN Co is a significant way through undertaking a massive network rollout, any community concerns about the installation of the additional facilities would have come to light by now," TPG said.

"The installation of these additional facilities by non-NBN carriers is likely to be to a far smaller degree than by NBN Co, so any adverse impact perceived by the community would also be small.”

TPG argues that it should have similar rights to NBN Co given it now shoulders similar obligations for its own fibre-to-the-basement network, including functional separation of retail and wholesale divisions, and a likely requirement to pay a $7.10 per line per month ‘broadband tax’.

“If other carriers are subject to these obligations, then they should also be given the same rights as NBN Co to install facilities to assist them to efficiently install infrastructure,” TPG said.

“The ‘NBN-only facilities’ are all facilities that only carriers operating fixed-line networks will install.”

ASX-listed dark fibre company Superloop likewise called out 15 types of telecommunications infrastructure that the wording of the current rules had made “NBN-only”.

It expressed a “strong belief that a facility should not be deemed ‘low impact’ based upon which carrier installs it” and called for the existing NBN-only rules to be opened up.

However, Superloop also raised fresh concerns that more such rules were on the cusp of being added.

“Proposed amendments [to the low-impact facilities determination] suggest, at the request of NBN Co, adding the ability to install poles for telecommunications and electricity cabling,” Superloop said.

“It is not clear whether poles will join the 15 other facilities only able to be installed by NBN Co.”

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