NBN RSPs again ask NBN Co chief, Comms Minister for relief

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NBN RSPs again ask NBN Co chief, Comms Minister for relief

Say NBN Co has a 'social responsibility' to act.

Australia’s five largest internet providers have appealed to NBN Co’s sense of “social responsibility” in a fresh bid for financial relief from soaring costs due to lockdowns.

The providers - Aussie Broadband, Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG Telecom - have again written to NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to press their case.

They last did so in July, which led to some relief in the form of a rebate scheme that has so far been extended by several months.

However, this rebate is believed to only cover a small portion of the excess fees being incurred by providers, and iTnews understands that some retailers have open disputes with NBN Co over the amounts they have received.

One of the issues is that the present rebate is based on industry-wide excess usage over the course of a month, instead of being a calculation that is specific to each internet provider.

Providers have asked NBN Co to change that, reducing uncertainty of how much they might be able to claim, and potentially also narrowing the gap in how much excess bandwidth they buy that goes unrebated.

The providers want any change backdated to June 2021, when they say bandwidth use increased considerably due to many Australians being stuck at home.

“We are thankful for the relief that NBN Co has provided in the past. However, now is not the right time to pull back on the levels of support NBN Co has provided for previous lockdowns,” the providers said in their letter, which was sighted by iTnews.

“The level of ‘relief’ offered by NBN Co for the current lockdowns is insufficient, and the rebates do not come anywhere close to covering the increases in wholesale costs paid by telecommunications providers to NBN Co.

“The wholesale costs borne by all retail service providers continue to increase month after month at an unmanageable rate and, without further action by NBN Co, this will ultimately result in poor consumer outcomes.”

The retailers added that a more appropriate rebate scheme would “protect consumers from higher prices and/or a lower quality service” - suggesting providers may be approaching a limit of being able to absorb the higher costs of broadband service provision.

In a lengthy statement, NBN Co effectively repeated its existing argument that retailers have "limited and decreasing exposure to excess data charges" and that the situation is nowhere near as bad as it is being made out to be.

NBN Co also said it has provided $100 million in "support" to retailers since the pandemic began.

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