July’s Advocacy Corner Update

Submissions which may be of interest to our members include:  

ACMA has an open consultation for their Statement of Expectations for Consumer Vulnerability. The purpose of this is to outline expectations for how the telecommunications industry should support vulnerable consumers, especially in the areas of internal business practices, selling and contracting, customer service, financial hardship and disconnection. This stems from ACMA’s efforts in ensuring telecommunication providers comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, especially for supporting vulnerable consumers.  

Home Affairs released a discussion paper on Strengthening Australia’s cyber security regulations and incentiveswhich focuses on how to make Australia’s digital economy more resilient from lower sophisticated cyber threats. The paper focuses on the sectors not covered by the sector-specific legislation, particularly on the ways stronger incentives can be created for Australian businesses to invest in and improve their cybersecurity. Home Affairs proposes this can be addressed by setting clear minimum expectations for businesses managing cyber security risks, providing clearer information about the security of technology practices and clear legal remedies for consumers after a cyber security incident. It might run to certification schemes or even extending consumer guarantees and rights for demonstrably insecure IoT equipment, for example. 

Treasury has begun its sectoral assessment to decide whether the Consumer Data Rights (CDR) should extend to the telecommunications sector. The CDR is a reform which gives consumers a right to consent to data held about them by Australian businesses being shared with accredited third parties, so they can directly access benefits such as having access to better value or personalised products/ services. This process will seek to understand what should be considered ‘telecommunications data’, who holds that data and what data should be designated and shared securely when a customer requests it. Hopefully it will assist consumers in transferring between providers, making the market more contestable by smaller ISPs. 

If you would like more information on any of the above, or to express your thoughts, please reach out via policy@internet.asn.au. 

July’s Advocacy Corner Update

Following the SAU roundtable last month hosted by the ACCC, we sent through a written submission responding to questions posed. In our submission, we advocated for price controls that provide certainty for RSPs, encourages competition within the telecommunications sector and is in the long-term interest of end users.  

We have also put our hand up to participate in working groups as part of the NBN Special Access Undertaking (SAU) process, and see this as an increasing focus for us in the coming months. As ever, if you have a point of view on NBN regulation and performance, let us know. 

Non-Discrimination Guidelines

Non-discrimination provisions are important for ensuring a fair and competitive telecommunications sector. We recently sent through a submission on the ACCC’s proposed Non-Discrimination Guidelines, derived from the Telecommunications Act 1997 and Competition and Consumer Act 2010. In our submission, we support the concept of non-discrimination provisions but note that exemptions (such as the creditworthiness test) can be used as a mechanism to unfairly discriminate against smaller access seekers. We also recommended a more reader-centric and accessible structure to the guidelines, so the document is less complex and more easily understood.

 

ACCC Roundtable on the SAU

IAA was invited to participate in the ACCC and NBN Co roundtable which kickstarted the process to develop a revised long-term regulatory framework for the NBN. The existing Special Access Undertaking (SAU) was established in 2013 and only covers fibre-to-the-premises services. A key focus of the roundtable discussion was on price and revenue controls, specifically the current CVC pricing model.

NBN Co proposed three new pricing constructs:

  • Construct 1 is similar to the existing bundled products model, but with CVC charged at $6/Mbps instead of the $8/Mbps.
  • Construct 2 proposes regular bundles for 50Mbps and below with $5/month increases and flat-pricing AVC only model for products 100Mbps and above, with an immediate $5-$20/month hike and yearly indexed increases in prices.
  • Construct 3 proposes a flat-pricing AVC only model, with an immediate $5-$20/month hike and yearly indexed increases in prices.

Other proposed changes include incorporating the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) within the SAU.

The ACCC raised potential measures guided by access arrangements supporting competitive retail service offerings, cost certainty to access seekers and reasonable opportunity for access providers to recoup costs and earn a return on investment. Potential measures the ACCC raised are similar to NBN Co’s new pricing constructs. Options include access provided at a fixed monthly price, access provided in product bundles in which CVC inclusions increase and/or CVC overage charges decrease regularly, or a combination of both. They also noted that measures ensuring cost certainty should not be undermined by overdependence on discounting practices. A minimum technical quality of service, such as a specified maximum tolerance for speed reductions and/or higher latency during busy hours should also potentially be considered.

We are eager to hear insights on which pricing construct members prefer and the impact they envision of each option on their speed tier mix, volume, product differentiation and operational processes. If you would like to learn more about the proposed pricing constructs or express your thoughts to guide our response, please reach out to policy@internet.asn.au.

 

Online Safety Bill – Industry Codes

The Online Safety Bill recently passed the Australian senate, which means it will become law within the next six months or so. The Bill establishes processes to force social media companies, internet service providers and hosting providers to act on removal notices regarding harmful content within 24 hours (instead of 48). The eSafety Commissioner is also provided with increased powers to require blocking URLs linking to abhorrent and/or violent material. Concerns have been raised about the range of powers provided to the eSafety Commissioner and the expansive coverage of the online service providers covered by the Act. Development of industry code(s) which foster a safe and transparent online environment as a part of the Bill is currently underway. IAA is actively engaging with the eSafety Office, online service providers and other industry associations to review this process.