“If [NBN] don’t get their shit together, we will just happily go about our business and do our own thing,” said iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij
NBN Co will be abandoned by the telecommunications industry unless it gets its act together and lowers wholesale prices charged to telcos, according to one of the national broadband network's leading supporters.
Steve Dalby, the chief regulatory officer of Perth-based internet service provider, iiNet, said NBN Co's management treated the telco industry with contempt and refused to accept its advice on a range of issues.
His comments come as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission prepares to release its draft determination on the "Special Access Undertaking" (SAU) document, which sets the prices and conditions for telcos buying and selling NBN services.
Industry sources said it could be released as early as Thursday.
"If they don't get their shit together, we will just happily go about our business and do our own thing," Mr Dalby said. "NBN Co's attitude is very dictatorial, it's very public service and it's very 'take it or leave it'. It's just surprising they have this attitude when you can actually leave it."
iiNet is a strong supporter of Labor's broadband plan over the Coalition's alternative. But Mr Dalby said NBN Co's management were being unrealistic in their demands. If NBN Co's stance did not change, Mr Dalby said telcos would stay on their current systems instead of moving customers onto the $37.4 billion NBN.
The resulting lack of customers could drastically slash revenue predictions.
TELCO WITHDRAWAL WOULD HURT
"NBN Co needs us more than we need them and that is not portrayed in any way by their attitude," he said. "If nobody signs their [wholesale broadband agreement] and nobody agrees with their SAU and they have no success as a business then they're f---ed."
Telco executives have long complained about NBN Co's negotiating stance on key issues. In 2011, SingTel-Optus head Paul O'Sullivan told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Sydney NBN Co was asking for too much and required reining in by the ACCC. "Our concern today is that we've already seen NBN Co flexing its muscles on some issues," he said.
"Some of the concessions NBN Co asked for, in early versions of its SAU, would make Telstra blush.
"We cannot rely on NBN Co to do the right thing. It must face the tightest form of regulatory oversight."
Ovum research director David Kennedy said NBN Co was known throughout the industry for being inflexible. But he said this was partly because the company had to be seen as neutral for all parties. "Should they be out there negotiating as an entity or are they a utility," he said.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.