THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says the National Broadband Netwotk (NBN) could become unaffordable for people on lower incomes, with the plans now more expensive than what most consumers pay for equivalent ADSL plans.
Speaking in Sydney last week, ACCC chair Rod Sims told the CommsDay Summit that for about $50 per month a customer could get (and can still get) an ADSL internet and voice plan with a 100 gigabyte (GB) quota or pay $60 for an unlimited quota plan.
“We are now observing prices of low-speed NBN plans offered to new customers that are at least $10 per month higher than what consumers paid for equivalent ADSL plans.”
The ACCC attributes this to new NBN Co wholesale pricing introduced in the past six months, with the wholesale cost of getting access to the NBN to supply a basic 12-megabit service increasing substantially and now close to the cost of a 50-megabit service.
“There is a fundamental question of fairness here for those on low incomes,” Mr Sims said.
“We also believe NBN Co’s entry-level services should be anchored to existing ADSL pricing. This is only fair to consumers because they have no choice but to move to the NBN as their existing services are being withdrawn.
“But more importantly, consumers that already want the higher speeds that the NBN makes possible also stand to benefit from pricing that reflects the additional value.”
Mr Sims also stressed the importance of the ACCC’s current wholesale service standards inquiry, which aims to bring about improvements in the time taken by NBN Co to connect new customers and fix faults, and to keep or provide compensation for missing scheduled appointments.
“If the wholesale standards are high, retail service providers can offer strong service commitments to their customers. However, if any of these activities are not up to scratch, retailers and, more importantly, the consumer will bear the pain.”