ROB OAKESHOTT is the chairman of the parliamentary committee on the NBN, which released its first report on Wednesday.
“The end product will, more than likely, be a privately owned and operated wholesale platform, with a return on revenue through engagement with retail providers as the platform is built, and then opportunity for a significant private sale once the NBN is complete,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Among the five recommendations from the report was to request the government to publish details on the productivity, jobs and competitive benefits from the NBN’s impact on competition at the retail and wholesale levels.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the government would respond to the committee’s recommendations.
“The government welcomes the committee’s interest in ensuring the NBN rolls out in an efficient and effective way which promotes the interests of consumers, particularly in regional Australia,” Senator Conroy said in a statement.
The report came out a day after the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) said it could not accept a crucial aspect of Telstra’s move to structurally split its retail and wholesale arms.
The separation is essential to the federal government’s plan for the $35.9 billion NBN.
NBN Co plans to build high-speed fibre optic cable to 93 per cent of Australian premises, with the remaining seven per cent to be covered by wireless and satellite technology.
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the ACCC was rightly concerned about Telstra’s planned structural split.
Mr Turnbull said the proposed deal between Telstra, the government and NBN Co would cut competition in the telecommunications market.
“What this government is doing, and what the ACCC is bucking or pushing back … is eliminating all competition,” Mr Turnbull told ABC television.
But ACCC chairman Rod Sims said his body’s worries about Telstra’s plan should not hinder the rollout of the NBN.
“(But) this is something that is capable of resolution. It should not, need not, hold things up,” Mr Sims said.
“On the other hand, the undertaking we are seeking is an important one, it’s not a walk in the park.”
The ACCC was worried Telstra had no compliance plan for its commitment to separate the two arms from 2018, while its undertaking did not address legislative requirements.
Mr Sims said Telstra may have to revise its proposal if the ACCC rejected it.
The commission’s initial view was there needed to be an enforceable commitment to an “equivalence of outcomes” that enabled wholesale and retail customers to gain access to equivalent access to Telstra’s line, nodes and exchanges.
Mr Turnbull said the government had failed to improve this access.
“What the government should have been doing is seeking genuine equivalence of access. They have not done that,” he said.
Mr Oakeshott said he hoped Telstra would take the ACCC’s recommendations on board.
“I would certainly hope that Rod Sims is listened to and that his changes … are done diligently and swiftly,” he said.
It would be “disappointing”, he said, if the ACCC’s findings derailed Telstra’s plans to have its own shareholders approve the deal at its annual meeting on October 18.