New bill gives Aust NBN Co. right to enter retail market

Robert Clark
25 Feb 2010

The Australian government is under fire for proposing to allow its new state-owned broadband carrier to enter the retail sector.

A draft bill to set up the National Broadband Network (NBN) Company, issued yesterday, gives the minister the discretion to allow it to become a retailer of telecom services in direct competition to Telstra and other operators.

An explanatory note in the draft says communications minister Stephen Conroy could allow NBN Co to “offer services directly to certain end users, for example government agencies,” The Australian reported.

Previously Conroy had said the new company would act as a wholesaler only.

An Optus spokesperson said the draft “means NBN Co will be able to take on Telstra more aggressively than even we thought.”

“The move is contrary to the ACCC’s proposals supporting strict vertical separation of the network,” said John Durie, a columnist on the Australian.

Conroy’s office defended the move as giving the minister “flexibility”. The government has been in negotiation with Telstra over its role in the NBN for nearly a year.

Releasing the bill, the government said it confirms its commitment to sell its stake in NBN Co. within five years.

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