Australia Amendments to Regional Broadband Packages: What’s In It For You?

According to the Regional Broadband Scheme, all the carriers, including NBN Co, are required to contribute $7.10 per month, per chargeable premises and this might increase the prices in broadband packages. Regional Broadband Scheme (RBS) (under the Telecommunications Fee Act 2020) went into force on January 1, 2021. The RBS levies a fee on carriers to cover NBN Co’s costs of building and maintaining fixed wireless and satellite networks in regional Australia. In other words, the RBS ensures essential broadband services in regional Australia, irrespective of who owns the regional networks and who is the monopoly fixed-line provider in metropolitan areas.

Regional Broadband Scheme: What we know so far?

The RBS was founded by the Australian government in May 2020 to ensure long-term sustainable funding arrangements for the development of critical broadband networks for Australians living across regional, rural, and remote areas. According to the Federal Government, fixed wireless and satellite technology are significant to addressing Australia’s regional broadband connectivity disadvantage and can be seen as the fastest and most cost-effective means of delivering broadband networks to those regions.

Before 1st January 2021, these arrangements were formerly financed by an internal cross-subsidy from NBN’s fixed-line networks. On the other hand, fixed wireless and satellite technology systems are expected to lose $9.8 billion over the next 30 years. Thus, the RBS strives to make current cost agreements more transparent and spread the costs across all NBN comparable networks (with services supplied via the NBN access network continuing to pay around 95 percent of the cost).

Experts say that since NBN is set to eventually replace Telstra as Australia’s primary fixed-line network provider, adequate investment is needed to ensure that all Australian premises can access and will continue to have access to the infrastructure that enables the delivery of superfast broadband services. However, large network operators such as Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone with their data plans and schemes support the goal of the Regional Broadband Scheme but not the funding mechanism. But unfortunately, the position of the government is opposite on this.

Regional Broadband Packages: How will the scheme work?

The Regional Broadband Scheme (RBS) requires that all carriers, including NBN Co, contribute funding at a rate of $7.10 per month per chargeable premises. To elaborate, chargeable premises are those where a carriage service provider (i.e., a retail broadband service provider) offers a carriage service over a fixed-line with download transmission rates of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) or more.

However, small start-ups such as those with less than 2,000 retail residential customers on all fixed-line networks will be exempted. In addition to this, RBS also offers a concession period for the first five financial years where it exempts the first 25,000 residential and small business premises on each carrier’s network, or the first 55,000 “recently linked greenfield premise” for carriers running greenfield networks. To ensure transparency and accountability, the charge amount will be reviewed and evaluated every five years by the ACCC to ensure that it accurately represents the size of the fixed-line broadband sector.

Responsibilities and Roles of Broadband Packages Provider & Operators

As per the new scheme, carriers and nominated declared carriers that own or are responsible for, local access lines capable of delivering NBN comparable broadband services are required to track the number of premises linked to each local access line beginning January 1, 2021. Besides a few exceptions, carriers who own or are responsible for these local access lines must report on the number of premises served by their access lines for each month pertaining to the period from 1 January to 30 June by October 31, 2021, which can be defined as the first reporting period. Vodafone Also provides some amazing postpaid deals and personalised services managers to their customers.

Further, it is intended that the carriers will pay a charge for all the households serviced by the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB), fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC), and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks. The carriers cannot escape the fee by providing sub-25 Mbps services over lines capable of 25 Mbps or more because the technological speed restriction is on the line, not the carrier. Thus, the scheme is a long-term solution for people to use leading operators such as Vodafone Bundle plans and data speed or data plans from other operators in regional Australia, ensuring equity in access. Vodafone also offers some amazing broadband packages.

Compliance Dates

1 January to 31 June 2021: As explained above, this is the first reporting period where the carriers must report on the number of chargeable premises with its local access lines for each month.
31 October 2021: Carriers must send a report to ACMA by October 31, 2021.
1 November to 31 November 2021: In this period, ACMA will assess submitted reports to calculate the number of chargeable premises and the annual chargeable premises amounts to be charged to carriers.