Brisbane bodies corporate are set to be embroiled in the confrontation between telecommunication companies NBN Co and TPG, and committee members need to be vigilant to ensure their body corporate is not adversely affected by the maneuverings of the big companies.
TPG Telecom recently announced expansion plans to provide fibre to the basement (FTTB) to 500,000 apartments in several capital city areas, including Brisbane’s CBD and Fortitude Valley.
In response, NBN Co has announced it will fast forward their roll out, citing the need for a commercial response to emerging competition for high-value customers. Previously, the rollout had prioritized areas currently underserviced by fast broadband, but the shift will extend it to areas full of residential and business complexes, including inner city Brisbane.
SSKB Director Tim Sheehan says “the struggle over strata scheme buildings is important, as most apartment complexes can only have one FTTB connection, so committees need to ensure it is the right one for the owners and residents. Committees should not be squeezed in the battle of the telecommunication companies for extremely profitable high density clients.”
A number of bodies corporate managed by SSKB have already been approached assertively by Pipe Networks – a member of the TPG Telecom Ltd group of companies. Notices provided by Pipe Networks state their intention to install fibre optic and communications equipment in the apartment building, and claim they are able to do so as a Carrier Licence holder under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth). The notices paint a picture of committees having no choice, and of not needing to be concerned.
In information provided by TPG to both bodies corporate and SSKB Community Managers, the following points are emphasized:
i. TPG wants to increase choice available to consumers;
ii. There is no obligation for owners or tenants to connect to TPG services;
iii. Installation of the FTTB infrastructure will not affect existing telephone or internet services;
iv. Multiple service providers can share a single piece of infrastructure;
v. The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) takes precedence over local or state laws, meaning there is no need for body corporate approval to proceed.
TPG’s CEO/Chairman, Mr. David Teoh, has stated that TPG will offer wholesale access to its infrastructure to other providers. This means that though all occupiers of that building may be using TPG equipment, they may choose TPG or another provider for their internet and telephone services.
Bodies corporate have understandably expressed concerns about the notices provided by Pipe Networks and their ability to proceed without approval. However legal advice has shown that there are limited grounds for objections under the Act to carriers installing low-impact facilities, and the objections are subject to certain timeframes in order to be valid.
NBN Co Challenges TPG Claims
NBN Co fears that the rollout will result in strata schemes being subject to exclusive supply arrangements and that competition will be limited.
Though TPG states the FTTB service will not prevent NBN access, and that existing DSL or cable services will continue without interruption, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow claims buildings may still be limited to one sole provider.
He highlights information appearing in TPG flyers, stating, “If another provider were to install the same technology there is a potential for conflict between the two systems and neither would operate at their full potential speed”.
This recommendation not to have multiple FTTB systems effectively removes choice from buildings where Pipe Networks or TPG infrastructure has already been installed.
Tim Sheehan has suggested that as a minimum committees should be requesting that any installer of the FTTB system should provide warranties that their system will not impact on the available speed within the building in the event that 2 systems are installed: “No committee should be part of a process which limits the future speed”.
Another concern raised is that the choice of internet and telephone providers for occupiers is conditional upon other service providers being willing to connect to and access TPG infrastructure. The likelihood of this could be questionable.
It is feared that these two factors combined will effectively limit the choice of infrastructure and service provider in some buildings to TPG alone.
NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow highlights the NBN’s ability to provide competitive choice.
“The NBN levels the playing field for Australian telecommunications and creates real and vibrant competition. We can make this statement because the NBN doesn’t sell directly to consumers and is open to all retail service providers to use on equal terms.”
“Vertically-integrated carriers – companies that both own networks and market to consumers – cannot offer those same guarantees. A building that signs up to TPG runs the risk of being left with only one retail service provider – TPG itself.”
“There are 44 retail service providers operating over the NBN, representing more than 90 per cent of the retail broadband market.”
A survey by leading telecommunications newsletter Communications Day reveals that a clear majority of the industry is opposed to TPG’s plans or thinks that competition restraints are necessary.
You can read the NBN Co Media Release here