- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network
Rollout of the National Broadband Network
- Parl No.
- Committee Name
Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network
CHAIR (Mr Oakeshott)
Mitchell, Rob, MP
Symon, Mike, MP
Macdonald, Sen Ian
Ley, Sussan, MP
Cameron, Sen Doug
Gallacher, Sen Alex
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network
(Joint-Monday, 16 April 2012)
CHAIR (Mr Oakeshott)
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Senator CAMERON
Content WindowJoint Committee on the National Broadband Network - 16/04/2012 - Rollout of the National Broadband Network
CORBIN, Ms Teresa, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
GADIR, Mr Jonathan, Senior Policy Adviser, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
Committee met at 08:59
CHAIR ( Mr Oakeshott ): I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network. The committee has been in existence for one year. The hearing today is a part of the third six-monthly review of the rollout of the National Broadband Network. The past six months have seen some significant developments for the NBN and many of these will be touched on today. Some of the more news worthy events include: the conclusion of the deal with Telstra and its structural separation; the consideration of competition issues by the ACCC; the announcement of the three-year rollout plan; and the decision by government to preclude certain companies from the NBN rollout.
There are many other matters connected to the rollout that this committee will be considering and which will be under review today. These include: the delivery of fast broadband to rural and regional Australia by the wireless and satellite services, NBN Co.'s performance reporting to this committee, national uniform pricing under the NBN, NBN Co.'s marketing plans, the e-readiness of small-to-medium enterprises; the potential of private equity to fund the NBN; and Telstra workforce issues associated with the retraining funding deed under the Telstra agreement.
Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving a false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. Would you like to make an opening statement to the committee.
Ms Corbin : First of all, we want to thank the joint committee for the opportunity to appear to again. ACCAN, as you and most likely most of the committee know, is the peak body representing consumers on telecommunications, broadband and emerging new communications services. Our priorities are availability, accessibility and affordability of communication services for all Australians. In our written submission to the committee, we have given an update on our engagement with NBN issues.
There are four main areas I want to highlight out of our submission. First of all, we are very pleased that there is a proposal now for a quarterly high-level consumer roundtable. That issue came up when we gave evidence to the joint committee in 2011. This request has been acted on by the NBN Co. and the wheels are now in motion to have our first meeting in June. We welcome this opportunity because we believe it will contribute to making NBN Co.'s public information activities more effective and also that it will give the opportunity for the community to have direct input into the NBN rollout.
On another matter, we have been consulted on the issue of battery backup provision for the NBN rollout. We want to make a couple of statements about this issue. First of all, if an optional opt-in deployment is chosen then there would need to be certain minimum steps taken to ensure sufficient and clear information for consumers to make informed choices. We also suggest that if it were optional for battery backup that a checklist of key questions be used to determine at-risk categories of consumers who would automatically receive the backup battery unless they specifically opted out. We are aware of a high level of public interest in this matter and we encourage the department to conduct full public consultation on this issue.
We have also been consulted by NBN Co. on their website redesign and have been consulted on the design of in-home equipment such as the NBN box.
Mr Gadir : On a more general note, as the rollout is now scaling up, we would like to highlight the need to make it as easy as possible for tenants to consent to an NBN installation. The general principle, in our view, should be that tenants do not miss out on free initial NBN installation due to uncertainty, delays or obstacles in relation to obtaining approval from their landlords. Obviously, if that were to occur, they would have to pay for installation, perhaps at a later date.
Ideally, there should be opt-out legislation enacted by all state and territory parliaments. Currently, however, in the absence of state and territory opt-out legislation, except in Tasmania, we think it is the responsibility of the government and NBN Co. to use real estate agents and state and territory rental bond offices to contact the maximum number of landlords with information on the rollout. Disagreements between landlords can be minimised if landlords are aware of what the rollouts are all about. In particular, it is important that landlords perceive NBN installation correctly—that is, that the copper is being retired, and therefore NBN installation is maintaining a fixed line to a property; it is not a tenant renovation or a tenant addition to a property. It may also be advisable for some sort of standard amendment to leases to be suggested by the government, or by NBN Co., to agents. Such an amendment could state that connecting an NBN cable to a property does not constitute a renovation or an addition. This would provide the necessary certainty for tenants to consent to NBN installation if they wished to do so.
Finally, ACCAN would like to seek further clarification in relation to the customer service guarantee, perhaps through this committee. This is a legislated consumer protection that provides for maximum time frames for new phone connections and fault repairs. We hope this can continue in the NBN environment. The CSG is important because consumers can receive compensation if there is a failure to meet those time frames. The CSG obligations on telco retailers may therefore need to be an element in, for example, NBN Co.'s wholesale broadband agreement with telcos. ACCAN is of the view that it may be the case that some form of appropriate service guarantee from NBN Co. as a wholesaler will be needed to allow the CSG to remain a viable consumer protection measure. We say that because, if such guarantees are not available to retailers, there is a risk they might seek exemptions from the CSG regulatory obligations. So we would certainly appreciate the committee seeking clarification from NBN Co. or industry players on that point. With that, I will wind up.
CHAIR: I will throw it to the committee for questions, but just to clarify from your opening comments: you mentioned the evidence that you gave last time with regard to the high-level consumer roundtable, following recommendations from the committee and your advocacy. Do you have any further details, or can you expand on the peak bodies involved, the plan of works and any areas where you think there are still gaps in that process?
Ms Corbin : Sure. I might start, and then Jonathan, who has been directly talking to NBN Co. about this matter as recently as last week, might update you further. We are planning our first meeting in June. We have recommended, I think, eight different peak bodies, including farmers, low-income groups, Choice, general consumers and Indigenous consumers. I believe invitations have been or are about to be sent out to those peak groups to join in this body. The two focuses for this consultation group are, obviously, the public education initiative, which is imminent and already well developed by NBN Co.; and the other one is to make sure we have a direct connection between NBN Co. and the community in relation to any ongoing issues that might come up so they can be addressed promptly. I should also mention that we have advised the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council be invited to the table as well. We believe that, through this consultation, we will actually be able to tap into the expertise that these groups already have with working with communities of particular interest and with particular special needs, particularly when it comes to the information campaign.
CHAIR: Okay. So at this point are there any gaps in what has been established?
Mr Gadir : We have received a letter from NBN Co. saying, 'Would you like to participate? We are contacting other groups.' But we do not know which groups they have decided to contact.
Ms Corbin : Yes, not at this stage.
Mr MITCHELL: What I am particularly interested in is rural and regional services and how rollouts will be happening there and the types of things that are happening, particularly in more remote areas.
Ms Corbin : I might get Jonathan to elaborate, because we are aware that the New South Wales Farmers Association have recently conducted a survey, which they have briefed us on and which we have mentioned in our submission. This highlighted a number of areas of concern in relation to satellite services—not concerns that necessarily exist but concerns that were raised by that constituency that need to be addressed by the satellite rollout.
Mr Gadir : The New South Farmers Association did a survey, and I gather from that that there are a lot of farmers among whom there is a pent up demand to get off inferior satellite service offerings that they are using now, but they are not necessarily aware that the NBN's interim satellite offerings are out there. So I think there is some need for better dissemination of the information that this interim service offering is out there now. Perhaps it is a case of ISPs not really promoting it because people are on contracts and it is not really in their interest. We are not sure what the reason is, but there needs to be better dissemination of information to the rural constituency.
Mr SYMON: Did they highlight any particular problems that they were facing with that? Was it access to markets or—
Mr Gadir : Sorry—problems from—
Mr SYMON: From the farmers.
Mr Gadir : From the survey data I have seen, it did not really go into that area. It was more just response to the service that they had at the moment. There were a lot of negative comments like, 'It's not good enough; it takes me hours to download X and Y.' So certainly it would seem that there is pent-up demand for take-up of those interim satellite offerings that are now out there, but according to the New South Wales Farmers Association a lot of people just do not know about their existence.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Good to see you again. Thanks for coming. We are almost getting to be old friends. To start, can you remind me how your group gets funded.
Ms Corbin : Our organisation is funded via an industry levy that is administered by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. It is funded under a section in the Telecommunications Act 1997—so it is quite a while now—which enables the minister to fund consumer representation and research.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay. When you say the industry, who—
Ms Corbin : The industry is the telecommunications industry.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Telstra? Optus?
Ms Corbin : Telstra, Optus, Vodafone—carrier licences, effectively.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Carrier licences—not retail service providers?
Ms Corbin : No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Is NBN a contributor?
Ms Corbin : I guess by the fact that they have a carrier licence they would be in some indirect way. I am not exactly sure of the breakdown or anything like that. One of the reasons that this mechanism is in place is to ensure that we are independent of industry and of government. Effectively we have a consumer voice that is funded by the industry that presumably benefits from that consumer voice.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you just get a lump sum from the government.
Ms Corbin : No, we do not get a lump sum. We have a contract with the government which fits in with the kinds of things that our constitution defines and our members want us to do: representing consumers, researching, developing an evidence base for any concerns consumers might have and providing consumer awareness activities. So it is along those lines or specifically in relation to telecommunications matters.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you get a fixed sum or an agreed amount every financial year?
Ms Corbin : No, we get it every quarter based on KPIs that we have to meet in relation to that contract.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Determined by the department?
Ms Corbin : Agreed on with the department, between us and the department.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay. You say that you do not know how the funding comes so I would have to ask the department.
Ms Corbin : Yes. I do not fully understand the licensing and how they recoup those funds, but obviously it is part of a consolidated amount that they recoup in relation to other costs that are put against license fees.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So, under your constitution, do you take directions from a board?
Ms Corbin : Yes. We have a board, which is elected by our members. We have 101 organisational members and a number of individual members, of which I think there are about 80. That body of members elects our board. We have an annual general meeting every year. We are a not-for-profit company and, obviously, we have to abide by all the rules and regulations that companies must abide by.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Who is your chairman?
Ms Corbin : Our chairman is Michael Fraser, who is from the Communications Law Centre. Obviously, the Communications Law Centre is one of our member bodies.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you. I think we have spoken about the battery backup before, and thank you for raising it in your submission. Do I gather from your submission that you are ambivalent about whether it is there? You point to the fact that a lot of people do not have it now.
Ms Corbin : It is a difficult question. A lot of people choose to not have a battery backup because they have a cordless phone now. The question is: how many people actually know that they are making that decision? A lot of people choose to have a cordless phone because it is the latest and greatest not because they are necessarily aware of all its functionality or limitations. We have known for a number of years that people have chosen to make this decision and that, by default, if they have a mobile it is their backup. What we are concerned about is that a number of our members have raised this as an ongoing concern, particularly members who may be vulnerable for any particular reason—for instance, it might be geography because they may live in a bushfire prone area, or it might be because they have some sort of medical condition that requires their being in constant contact with the network.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you have a view on whether any battery backup should be supplied by NBN and, therefore, the wider consumers or the government, or whether it should be paid for by those who want it installed?
Ms Corbin : We think that it should be provided as part of the NBN Co. installation. We do not think that people who need battery backup should be penalised in any way by having to fund that themselves. What our comments relate to is looking after the community of need that have spoken up in relation to this issue. We have also highlighted in our submission that there is a lack of information about evidence in relation to how bad the impact might be if it were rolled out across the board, a lack of information about people's awareness levels in relation to battery backup and their need of it. So our comments relate to community and peak bodies that have made comment directly on this issue, and those groups are well informed about this matter, but the general community is not well informed about this matter.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are you aware of what is happening now? If battery backup is provided, who pays now?
Mr Gadir : It is part of the standard installation.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So is it NBN or the RSPs?
Mr Gadir : My understanding is that it is covered by NBN's installation of the NBN box.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay, thank you.
Ms LEY: Have you formed a view about the difference between the NBN provided satellite services and the existing ones? You made that comment about New South Wales farmers, and the deputy chair has already asked you a bit about that?
Mr Gadir : I do not have any direct knowledge of the comments of the farmers; that came to me through the survey data from the New South Wales Farmers Association. I suppose it is part of a broader point, which is that it is really the urgent need for NBN Co. to get the message out about what is available and to ensure that the constituencies that might be benefiting know about it.
Ms LEY: Do you have a view about whether those satellite services are similar, very superior or inferior? I am assuming they would not be inferior.
Mr Gadir : Certainly they provide a more reliable and faster speed, based on the advertised information.
Ms LEY: Do you see your role as more of a conduit to elevating the concerns of your constituent organisations? Is that how you see your role?
Ms Corbin : Yes, as a conduit—but then, once we identify those concerns and it is an area that we can do further research on, or perhaps even consult with industry further, we do. We only have very limited research budgets, so we have to do it within the confines of our funding.
Ms LEY: What is your total budget?
Ms Corbin : Our budget is around $2 million per annum, and $250,000 of that actually goes to a grant scheme. It is mandated that we will give that to at least six or seven successful grant applicants every year. So, in fact, our operational budget is a lot less than $2 million.
Ms LEY: Could we have a list of the grantees you have just mentioned?
Ms Corbin : Absolutely, I would be happy to provide them. We have had three rounds of grants and we are just entering into a new round at the moment. We have had 76 applications for funding in this round. They are 12-month grants.
Ms LEY: How do you promulgate the availability of those grants?
Ms Corbin : We advertise them very widely—
Ms LEY: In the press?
Ms Corbin : Yes, also in the media. We have an independent grants panel that makes the decision in relation to who receives the funding. I am happy to provide a list of all those successful grantees—the ones that have completed their projects are the ones that are currently in train.
Ms LEY: Thank you, we would appreciate that. I look at the issues that you have highlighted in your submission as 'emerging issues requiring attention'. Would you say that that is all of the emerging issues that you have identified that require attention? Are these the main ones? Are there others?
Ms Corbin : These are the main ones at present. Obviously, we have not gone back over previous evidence or anything like that. These are the new emerging issues from our perspective, as well as an update on ones that we have previously complained quite profusely to you and others about and that we have made some progress on.
Ms LEY: Would you say it comes within your purview to have a view on the availability or not of the NBN at all in certain areas?
Ms Corbin : Yes it does, although I imagine that increasingly we will have more to say about that, especially as our community comes forward and makes comment. But, obviously, we do not have any input into those decisions. I could imagine as time goes by, once we get to the stage that we are talking about—not the three years coming but the three years after that—we will know what communities may be in more need than other communities.
Ms LEY: So at this stage you have made no comment on where the NBN is planned to be rolled out, begun or completed by 2015?
Ms Corbin : The only comment we have made is that we believe that the focus should be on areas where there is not good access to broadband first, and move forward from there. So we are obviously in support of rural and regional consumers getting services first, and in support of metropolitan black holes being addressed as soon as possible.
Ms LEY: Do you feel you have any constraints under which you might criticise the existing rollout?
Ms Corbin : No, I do not feel we have any constraints.
Ms LEY: Finally, I would like to invite you to make comment next time we meet on what you actually view as the state of play and where the rollout with respect to the remarks you made about the need for access.
Ms Corbin : Yes, sure.
Ms LEY: Thank you.
CHAIR: Before we hand to Senator Cameron, do we have Senator Ludlam on the phone? No, so we will hand to Doug. I am keen to get Senator Ludlam engaged, but I will hand over the Senator Cameron.
Senator CAMERON: Thanks. Ms Corbin, I am a little bit confused: I thought we were in an inquiry into your organisation this morning. There has been no criticism of your independence over the years, has there?
Ms Corbin : From no-one apart from the media.
Senator CAMERON: The media?
Ms Corbin : Yes. There were some questions about our independence last year by the Australian.
Senator CAMERON: There's a surprise!
Ms Corbin : We have come out quite clearly and stated exactly what we have clarified with committee today: that our members expect us to be independent, fearless and feisty in our comments and we do our best to represent their concerns and their needs.
Senator CAMERON: Did the Australian have any evidence about lack of impartiality?
Ms Corbin : It was an editorial comment.
Senator CAMERON: Okay. You have operated under the Howard government as well?
Ms Corbin : There are several predecessor organisations. ACCAN is a merged entity of several organisations: the Consumers Telecommunications Network and the Telecommunications and Disability Consumer Representation group, TEDICORE. It also brought together a number of consumer organisations that previously were not represented by those groups. They were funded under the Howard government since 1998, but under the clause in the Telco act that I referred to earlier, section 593 of the telco act, enables the minister to decide to fund consumer representation and research. Obviously that funding is not coming from consolidated revenue; it comes from an industry levy.
Senator CAMERON: I move on to the issues that we should be dealing with. Could you comment on the NBN Co. wholesale pricing model with regard to the range of prices consumers may be expected to pay for internet services?
Mr Gadir : We have said that, to date, the retail pricing has been comparable to service offerings that exist now. We always knew that a uniform national wholesale pricing model would not necessarily automatically translate into uniform retail pricing. Beyond that, we do not have any specific comment on that model. It is something that we do not really have any input into.
Senator CAMERON: You do not have any input but, surely, it is your job to be monitoring the effects on behalf of consumers?
Mr Gadir : Yes, and we have urged NBN Co. to consider, for example, a discounted wholesale rate to provide retail service providers with the ability to offer services to low-income consumers, as I think we mentioned in the previous joint committee hearing. That is something we have been urging.
Senator CAMERON: Do you have any comments on the effect of the pricing policies on rural, regional and remote areas?
Mr Gadir : Wholesale?
Senator CAMERON: How that would be reflected in retail, regarding both: wholesale and retail.
Mr Gadir : We have been trying to monitor how the wholesale pricing model translates to the retail market and we have been talking to some of the providers to find out about the direction that is going. My sense is that, as the interim satellite service, for example, becomes a permanent satellite service, the ISPs are going to be able to offer better rates. That is my sense, but I have not really conducted a full investigation into it.
Senator CAMERON: You may need to take this on notice. On 18 October 2011, WhistleOut, a comparison website, released its analysis. That showed that for the entry level, 12 megabits plan, with allowances of up to 50 gigabytes per month, consumers would pay around 24 per cent less on the NBN compared to ADSL2. Do you have any comment on that?
Mr Gadir : I have to take that on notice.
Mr SYMON: I would like to go back a couple of steps regarding the legislation. At the previous inquiry into this, the House of Reps infrastructure and communications inquiry last year, there was a lot of evidence, especially from Tasmania, about the problem of tenants missing out on the NBN because their landlord had not given consent to connection. Is that still as big a problem as was revealed to that committee at the time? Are you still getting more and more information about this?
Mr Gadir : We have not really had more and more information. We are simply forecasting that there will be problems if it is not properly addressed as the rollout scales up. I am not aware of specific examples yet but I am sure that, if it remains unaddressed, it will become an issue, simply because many landlords are very difficult to contact and they may not have the information or the incentive to respond in a timely manner when the time comes to provide consent and sign forms.
Mr SYMON: Have you just heard from consumers in the domestic area, or small businesses as well? One of the pieces of evidence we heard in Tasmania was particularly about small businesses that missed out on connection because their landlord did not send the paperwork back.
Mr Gadir : Yes, I would imagine that small business and domestic consumers would be in the same boat in dealing with landlords.
Ms Corbin : But obviously there is more of a commercial imperative for the small business to get it resolved sooner. It has come up in our conversations with tenancy organisations and the strata organisations, and we have had some preliminary conversations with COSBOA, the Council of Small Business, about concerns we have in relation to a number of different matters. Hopefully very soon we will be able to progress those a bit further so that we can get some input directly from them.
Mr SYMON: It would seem to me that it really needs to be given the same priority as any other essential service for property—that is, gas, water or sewerage. A fibre connection, if it is available, should also be part of that package.
Ms Corbin : Yes, we agree.
Mr SYMON: Just moving on to the last part of your submission, 'Copper line service bundled with NBN', about Telstra's announcement that their 'first NBN based offers will have consumers keeping a copper line for their phone until an unspecified later date', could you tell me a little bit more about that piece of information and whether you have learned anything more about it since the time it was put to paper?
Mr Gadir : We have not learned anything more. If one goes to the Telstra website and clicks on their NBN offers, one can see the list of offers. Clearly they have decided for some reason that they are going to keep people on the copper for the voice service for the moment. The bundled price is not separated into components; it is just a bundled price, just like all their other bundles. We are simply concerned that the price is higher than it might otherwise be.
Mr SYMON: Because you have had to cover the cost of two networks rather than one?
Mr Gadir : Yes, that is right.
Mr SYMON: Thank you.
Senator GALLACHER: How critical do you think the voice over internet protocol will be to quicken the uptake of NBN services?
Ms Corbin : I just want to seek clarification of your question. Do you mean voice over internet protocol services bundled with an NBN service?
Senator GALLACHER: I think plenty of small businesses at the moment have a broadband network in two offices and they use the voice over internet protocol. Do you think this is a consumer need, and do you think that the quick uptake of that will speed up the acceptance of the NBN?
Ms Corbin : It should. Anecdotally, yes it should. A lot of the challenges with voice over internet protocol at the moment are the quality and the variability of the quality, so that makes it difficult for small businesses to choose to have only a voice over IP service, so usually they have a backup service of some kind in addition. So, whilst they will be making savings, where they can, using VOIP, should the network—because it is based on using the public internet at the moment—go down or should there be congestion because it is school holidays or whatever, then there is still a requirement that they have access to a more reliable network. From our conversations with NBN, we understand that the IP based services, the telephony services, that they are offering are not going to be at the behest of what congestion may or may not happen on the public internet but will be more of a carrier grade IP type service. So it should improve, it should give more opportunities, but obviously we will have to see how that pans out over time.
Senator GALLACHER: Do you have any information about the number of retail service providers of VOIP?
Ms Corbin : No, I do not, although I am sure that somebody like Shara Evans from Market Clarity could provide that market based information to you.
Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.
CHAIR: Just to follow up on that, do you have any information from a low-income-household perspective as to what work RSPs are doing to provide more affordable, better-access services generally on the back of the wholesale platform?
Ms Corbin : There have been a number of very cheap offerings put out there. I think it is worthwhile stating that we were pleased with the recommendation from this committee in your last report that suggested that the department conduct some further research. We agree. I think our conversation at the last meeting of the committee was quite useful for us in trying to identify some research questions as well, because the extent of the need is unclear and the impact that mobile broadband offerings might also be having in that space is also unclear. Obviously, mobile broadband is not the cheapest way to access the internet as far as getting access to the amount of data you might actually get and how much you pay for that data are concerned, but for a number of households that may be the best option at this point in time.
CHAIR: While we have you for another five minutes, is there anything you want to put on the record in regard to TUSMA and consumer protections it can, will or will not provide for the consumer market in the NBN environment?
Mr Gadir : We certainly hope that TUSMA will be an avenue where the existing consumer protections are maintained, continued and even strengthened. Certainly the opportunity exists within the TUSMA framework for that to occur, so we would be hopeful that—
CHAIR: Are there any concerns you want to put on the record that you want us to follow up, while you have us?
Mr Gadir : Certainly there was an amendment, when the bill went through, that provided for at least one of the members to be from a consumer background. Actually, I should correct that: that was what we were asking for. It is not compulsory for the minister to appoint anyone from a consumer background to the membership of TUSMA, but we would really urge the government to make sure that at least someone with a consumer background is on that board.
CHAIR: Do you want to add to that?
Ms Corbin : No, I was just going to say that further comments we could make were just in relation to the special access undertaking.
CHAIR: Feel free.
Ms Corbin : We just have some concerns that, with the length of period that we are talking about being 30 years, there be some option for the government, for consumers and for the ACCC to argue that there is a case for variations in between that time, particularly when it relates to price and service level agreements, because quality and price are going to be the things that really matter when we actually start to see NBN broadband rolled out to a great extent. And there is a great need for transparency and public scrutiny of any variations to the arrangements, which I believe at this stage it is only proposed that NBN Co. can do. So we really urge the ACCC to follow that through and also urge the government to hear any views that they have about transparency in relation to these arrangements.
CHAIR: Okay. Just covering the field very quickly: are you getting any feedback at all, particularly from rural and regional areas, about any inconsistencies with public messages or KPIs that NBN Co. are putting out in regard to the whole point of the exercise and the ability to access a full range of services by both RSPs and ISPs and whether there are any distortions—or anything you want to put on the record in that regard?
Ms Corbin : No information at this point, but I think once we have actually got our consultation body set up, our consumer reference group that will liaise with NBN Co., then there will be a very clear conduit for that sort of information to come through. I am really looking forward to that body being set up—because, obviously, the consultation we undertake is within a limited-resource envelope and that consultation process, which will be supported by NBN Co., will certainly offer opportunities that are not there at the moment.
CHAIR: Are you getting any feedback on the need to replace NBN infrastructure already, in any locations?
Mr Gadir : To replace infrastructure?
Ms Corbin : No, we have not had any.
Mr Gadir : No.
CHAIR: Okay, thanks for coming in and for defending yourselves in an exercise of coming in on your own time and own resources. It is appreciated. I think you will get a complaint from a senator from Western Australia about consumer access issues in telecommunications. We were not able to get Senator Ludlam on the line, for some reason, so I apologise for that. If you are okay with it, he did have some questions that he did want to put on the record.
Ms Corbin : Okay.
CHAIR: If you could take them on and feed them back to the secretariat over the coming weeks.
Ms Corbin : Yes.
CHAIR: Thanks for coming in to assist the committee. If you have been asked to provide additional information—and it probably will be by Senator Ludlam—and you could you get that back by Friday, 27 April, that will allow us to consider the information for our report.
Ms Corbin : Okay, yes.
CHAIR: There being no further questions, thank you very much for coming in; we appreciate it.
Ms Corbin : Thank you.
Mr Gadir : Thank you.