Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015, which I am introducing today, is intended to enhance the regulatory framework for telecommunications, implementing, in part, the government's response to the Vertigan panel. Given the importance of this sector to our economy and society, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the regulatory regime operates as best as it can so that we have a competitive, innovative and responsive telecommunications market.
On 11 December 2014, the government set out a road map for reform in the telecommunications sector which will see several restrictive aspects of existing market regulation gradually replaced with enhanced, competition-friendly settings. The road map also outlined the government's response to an independent review carried out by a panel of experts chaired by Dr Michael Vertigan AC.
The panel concluded, amongst other things, that the current regulatory structure should be adjusted to better support competition and recommended changes to this effect. Specifically, the panel considered that regulatory arrangements and processes should be better focused and streamlined.
The bill contains measures that respond to recommendations made by the Vertigan panel to improve the operation of the telecommunications access regime and nbn co's line of business obligations. These measures support the government's objective of establishing a more competitive regulatory framework that will, in turn, provide greater certainty for industry and more innovative, effective and efficient service delivery for consumers.
The bill also includes amendments to provide continued certainty for nbn co during the National Broadband Network's rollout throughout Australia.
The bill better coordinates the interaction between the facilities access regime in schedule 1 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the access regime in part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010,making it clear that part XIC processes have precedence in the regulation of access to facilities. This will provide greater certainty and clarity for the telecommunications industry.
It also introduces a new obligation to make it clear that access providers need to give access to in-building cabling that they own or control, where use of that cabling is necessary for the supply of an active declared service. This will mean that competing service providers are able to supply carriage and/or content services using a declared service over that cabling, and this will provide greater certainty for access seekers.
To encourage greater service innovation on the National Broadband Network (NBN), nbn co will be given flexibility in conducting pilots and trials of new services over its network through a relaxation of its non-discrimination obligations. Specific conditions—for example, a limit on the duration of a pilot or trial and a requirement to notify the ACCC—will need to be met for a pilot or trial to take place. If, at any stage, the ACCC was to reach the view that the pilot or trial did not meet these conditions—that is, it was not 'genuine'—the ACCC would be able to take enforcement action.
The bill includes a number of finetuning changes to improve the operation of the telecommunications access regime in part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. These changes will achieve greater consistency of approach in regulating access, streamline processes, and provide industry with greater certainty in relation to the operation of the regime.
The bill provides nbn co with greater flexibility in its business operations by amending its line of business restrictions to permit it to dispose of surplus assets and to allow regulations to be made to relax restrictions on nbn co supplying non-communications goods or services, or its investment activities. It does not mean that nbn co will be able to sell retail services or that its line of business will expand beyond the provision of layer 2 wholesale services.
The bill also modifies existing authorisations that allow nbn co to operate a specified number of points of interconnection and sell its key services as a bundle, ensuring that nbn co can continue these practices under a price capping regime. These changes will mean nbn co can continue to roll out the NBN according to its current design and business model with confidence, minimising delay and cost risks. As such, the bill supports the object of ensuring that superfast carriage services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia, wherever they reside or carry on business. These authorisations will cease once the NBN is built and fully operational, having served their purpose of facilitating the rollout.
The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBN Companies) Bill 2015 makes some minor but helpful changes to the regulatory framework. Further legislation proposed for next year will deal with some of the more significant issues set out in the government's telecommunications policy road map. This bill represents the first phase of reforms, promoting greater efficiency, transparency, competition and innovation in telecommunications services.
I commend the bill to the House.