Malcolm Turnbull has slammed the recent ACCC approval of an $800 million agreement with Optus and NBN Co which will see Optus decommission its HFC network and aid the migration of Optus customers to the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Turnbull, shadow minister for communications and broadband, attacked the agreement as anti-competitive and creating a monopoly.
“This is a very black day for the ACCC. This agency [was] established to promote and protect competition. For years, decades, it has railed against Telstra and its quasi-monopoly status in telecommunications and has called, again and again, for more competition,” he said in a statement.
“…nowhere else in the world has a government established a new fixed line monopoly and actually paid billions [of] dollars to the owners of the HFC networks not to provide broadband and voice. It is the very pinnacle of anti-competitive behaviour,” he said.
While the ACCC stated the agreement’s benefits outweigh the detriments, Turnbull asserted the Optus and NBN Co deal should have been blocked by the ACCC.
“The reasons given by the ACCC [for its approval] are confused and contradictory,” he said.
The Coalition has previously put forward suggestions it would develop the NBN by building on existing networks, which could include HFC, instead of developing a fibre-to-the-home network.
“…if you are going to get the crystal ball out, isn’t there just a teensy weensy possibility there of a change of government which will take a very different approach to the NBN?” Turnbull said.
Turnbull also questioned the use of $800 million of taxpayer funds for the agreement, stating Optus has “hit the jackpot”.
“…NBN Co are not lunatics who shell out $800 million for nothing as the ACCC suggest. On the contrary, the HFC is an extremely viable competitor with the NBN Co and because its original capital cost was written off long ago, Optus could upgrade it for a modest cost which would enable it to undercut the NBN on price and provide equivalent services for most customers.
“Recognising this the government and the NBN Co decided to use our taxes to buy out this competition just as they have done with Telstra’s HFC.”
However, independent telco analyst, Paul Budde, previously told Computerworld Australia that the Optus and NBN Co deal makes sense because the NBN is a utility and Optus long ago abandoned upgrades to its HFC network, with subscribers on the network remaining largely unchanged for the past decade.
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