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Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy has dismissed concerns held by independent Senator Nick Xenophon that the current National Broadband Network (NBN) legislation may allow the NBN Co to offer special pricing to major players such as Telstra.
During a media conference following the passing of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 today, Conroy hosed down suggestions that NBN Co would offer Telstra volume discounts on the NBN.
“What is set out in that bill is that if the NBN want to give say a volume discount it has to go and get approval from the ACCC," he said. "The NBN can’t just go off and give a volume discount to anybody or make new pricing arrangements.
“[NBN Co chief executive Mike] Quigley has said that the policy of the company is not to give volume discounts. So there is both Mr Quigley on the record and if you read the relevant legislation it is very specific: it can only be done if the ACCC gives it the tick.”
According to Conroy, giving NBN Co the power to offer volume discounting was to provide a “degree of flexibility” in the legislation.
“Let’s be clear: it has to be done with the ACCC’s approval,” he said. “This is a bill which will now work its way through all the committee stages.
“We will listen to the committees, we will listen to the other members of parliament and we will consider that some time in the first half of next year but I imagine this will be at least a six-month process we are going through.”
The comments follow a statement from Xenophon today that he would not be supporting the NBN legislation due to be voted on in the Senate in February because it currently allowed for a special deals for major telco providers.
"Last week I voted for the structural separation of Telstra, because I believed it would increase competition and help consumers," he said. "But allowing for preferential pricing on the NBN for certain companies will hurt competition and in turn hurt consumers. I will not be supporting those Bills unless every provider gets the same deal, regardless of their size or power.”
According to Xenophon, as the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 currently stood, NBN Co is allowed to ignore non-discrimination measures if this aided efficiency".
Xenophon also claimed the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill gave scope for NBN Co to favour certain providers based on their size and the revenue they may provide.