Thursday, 13 February 2020
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2019, Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2019; Second Reading
I am pleased to sum up the debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2019 and the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2019, and I express my thanks to all parliamentary colleagues who have spoken in this debate.
These bills implement a comprehensive three-part package to improve the regulatory framework for the supply of high-speed broadband, by amending separation rules and creating new supply and funding arrangements. These bills will improve the provision of high-speed broadband in Australia, firstly, by making carrier separation rules for high-speed residential networks more effective but also more flexible and giving carriers greater scope to invest in superfast networks and to compete. Secondly, they improve the provision of high-speed broadband by introducing new statutory infrastructure provider obligations on NBN Co and others to support the ongoing delivery of high-speed broadband services. Thirdly, these bills establish the Regional Broadband Scheme, which will provide transparent and equitable long-term funding for NBN Co's satellite and fixed-wireless services in regional and remote areas.
Access to the National Broadband Network is estimated to have contributed $1.2 billion to Australia's GDP in 2017, excluding the stimulus effect of the rollout. Once complete, the NBN is projected to boost Australia's GDP by $10.4 billion per annum.
The government's reform package embodied in these bills is designed to allow all Australians to participate and share in the social and economic benefits of one of our country's largest infrastructure projects. Consumers will benefit from the statutory infrastructure provider measures, the purpose of which is that all Australians can access high-speed quality internet services. The rules set out baseline standards for the services: peak download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and peak upload speeds of at least five megabits per second. The services also need to support voice communication on fixed-line or fixed-wireless networks.
Consumers in regional Australia will benefit from the Regional Broadband Scheme, which establishes a transparent and equitable long-term funding arrangement for NBN Co's fixed-wireless and satellite networks. These networks are improving business, social, educational and health outcomes for regional and remote Australia. The Regional Broadband Scheme will require all carriers to pay $7.10 per month for each premises on their network with a high-speed fixed-line broadband service. This charge is capped at $7.10, indexed to CPI, to provide greater regulatory and investment certainty and to support market competition.
The Regional Broadband Scheme will level the playing field by spreading the cost of Australia's investment in regional and remote broadband services equitably across NBN Co and NBN comparable networks. Importantly, the costs of NBN Co's fixed-wireless and satellite networks are built into NBN Co's existing pricing model over time, so establishing the Regional Broadband Scheme will not produce any one-time price shock for NBN customers. In combination with the statutory infrastructure provider regime, the Regional Broadband Scheme will give confidence to residents of regional and remote Australia that essential affordable broadband services will be available to them and will remain available in the future.
The package of measures set out in these bills strengthens competition, but it recognises that in a competitive market all participants should contribute towards the cost of providing loss-making broadband services in regional and remote Australia. There has been recognition of the potential need for a levy to support the provision of loss-making broadband services in regional and remote Australia since the initial implementation study for the NBN was carried out in 2010. The Labor Party and representatives of that party have been on the record saying that they accept that a levy might need to be introduced. In its 2010 Statement of Expectations to NBN Co the then Labor government said it was considering introduction of a levy to prevent opportunistic cherrypicking.
The package of measures set out in these bills delivers important outcomes for consumers, and that is why these bills are supported by consumer groups and by regional stakeholders, including the National Farmers Federation and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition. These bills also deliver important outcomes for industry, with more opportunities for competition at both the network and retail levels. These important reforms are a critical step towards all Australians having access to the affordable, high-speed quality internet services they need to fully participate in today's digital society. I commend these bills to the House.