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NBN, Telcos Banned From User Discrimination

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NBN Co and other providers of superfast broadband, including Telstra and Optus, are to be prohibited from discriminating between their customers except in “limited circumstances,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said today.

That’s according to the draft guidelines on non-discrimination proposed by the Commission provisions as part of the reforms of the $36bn NBN project.

The telcos will be banned from discriminating on provision of NBN services including trials, developing or enhancing services and providing information to customers.

These rules could be particularly pertinent when providing fibre optic broadband services to customers in Alice Springs compared to, say, a user in Sydney.

In other words if Telcos offer customers different terms and conditions compared to others, they could be prosecuted by the ACCC. 

However, Telstra, in its submission to the ACCC proposals insist  “mere difference in the terms and conditions of supply should not be viewed as discriminatory.”

Many differences will reflect “different requirements of parties and/or the different circumstances that arise from the supply of each access seeker,” it says.

The proposals are intended to ensure all Australians will have access to the same high-quality superfast broadband services, regardless of the network provider, and to ensure NBN Co “operates on a more level regulatory playing field,” says the ACCC.

“They are designed to provide guidance to industry on when providers such as NBN Co may negotiate different supply terms with their customers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC has taken a pragmatic approach, with the aim of achieving efficient and competitive outcomes for both the telecommunications industry and consumers.”

The ACCC is seeking comments on the draft guidelines from interested parties. Submissions can be provided to the ACCC by COB on Friday 3 February 2012.