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Bill set to deliver better choice and services for broadband consumers



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The Hon Julia Gillard, MP

Bill set to deliver better choice and services for broadband consumers

Julia Gillard,Stephen Conroy posted Wednesday, 20 October 2010

People across Australia will be able to access cheaper and faster broadband

services if a landmark telecommunications Bill is passed.

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said it is crucial the Telecommunications

Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 is

passed so that Australians can benefit from better broadband services.

The legislation will allow for the structural separation of Telstra’s retail wing

from the rest of the company.

This important Bill is being reintroduced into Parliament today after it was

blocked in the Senate by Opposition filibustering before the election.

Ms Gillard and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital

Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy today said the Liberals and Nationals

must support this legislation if they are serious about improving competition

in the telecommunications market and delivering better services for their

constituents.

Every day of delay for these reforms is another day of higher prices, less

choice and fewer innovative services for consumers and small businesses -

especially for those in regional Australia.

The Bill is an important micro-economic reform that will revolutionise the

communications market for Australian consumers. It will set the stage for

greater competition and productivity.

The Bill has been amended following a Heads of Agreement reached between

NBN Co and Telstra in June this year.

The changes provide the necessary legislative framework to support the

Agreement and give regulatory certainty to Telstra and its shareholders.

The Agreement also allows NBN Co to access Telstra’s pits, ducts and other

infrastructure, which will lead to a more efficient and cost effective rollout of

the NBN. This will help cut billions of dollars from the cost of rolling out the

NBN.

Australia currently has the 5th most expensive broadband charges amongst

OECD countries. This Bill will help to bring prices down by allowing greater

competition.

Consistent with the reforms announced last year, the purpose of the Bill

remains to:

• restructure the telecommunications market to promote greater

competition and consumer benefits;

• strengthen the telecommunications-specific access regime to provide

more certain and quicker outcomes for telecommunications companies;

• streamline the anti-competitive conduct regime by removing procedural

impediments that in the past have restricted the effective operation of the

telecommunications-specific competition regime; and

• strengthen consumer safeguard measures such as the Universal Service

Obligation and the Customer Service Guarantee.

Importantly, the Bill provides certainly for shareholder by setting out a

framework for Telstra to seek approval from its shareholders on a proposal

for it to migrate its fixed-line services to the NBN.

Other important measures in the Bill that provide greater certainty for Telstra

include:

• authorising certain conduct of Telstra and NBN Co, under the trade

practices law, that is required to promote the structural reform of the

telecommunications industry and deliver benefits to consumers;

• allowing Telstra to acquire the spectrum it needs to provide advanced

wireless broadband services unless the Minister determines in a legislative

instrument otherwise;

• giving priority to a genuine structural separation process for Telstra over

functional separation.

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