23 Pages Of Amendments To NBN Senate To Sit Today

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Comms and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has reignited controversy on the National Broadband Network, producing a massive 23-page bundle of amendments to NBN legislation currently being debated in the Senate.

Comms and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has reignited controversy on the National Broadband Network, producing a  massive 23-page bundle of amendments to NBN legislation currently being debated in the Senate.

The Senate sat late last night debating the amended NBN Companies Bill and Access Arrangements Bill – and will be recalled at 9am today to ensure their passage before Parliament rises until the May Budget session. The House of Reps, which passed the bills earlier this month, will be recalled on Monday to pass the amendments.

Conroy says the amendments will ensure the NBN operates as an open-access, wholesale-only network, to support vigorous retail-level competition for Australians.

But critics say Conroy’s amendments reveal NBN Co may end up with power to charge different prices for bush communities using wireless and satellite services than their city counterparts using fibreoptic cable. That appears to go against assurances given to independent MPs last year that there would be uniform pricing across the country.

Most amendments seek to strengthen anti cherry-picking provisions in the access legislation, designed to prevent fibre providers building new networks only in high-population areas, potentially undercutting NBN Co prices.

Others concern controversial provisions allowing NBN Co to offer services directly to utilities, with the Government clarifying thatn the utilities cannot resell those services.

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said these amendments don’t address the Coalition’s concerns about the NBN being a retail player.

“This makes an absolute mockery of the claim NBN is a wholesale provider of telecommunications services,” he said in a blog post yesterday. “It would mean that the private sector telcos would run a very real risk of being limited to the small business and residential markets.”

Optus CEO Paul Sullivan yesterday told a business lunch that the carrier opposed many of the amendments and would be talking to the Government in a bid to get suggested changes accepted.

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