The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has cleared the way for NBN Co and the country’s five biggest retail telcos to cooperate to ensure availability across Australia’s broadband network.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher requested the national wholesaler and the country's five biggest telcos form a working group to ensure bandwidth availability during the current crisis.
The working group includes Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison, TPG and Vocus.
The ACCC said the group would share information, coordinate strategies to manage congestion and take other steps to address significant demand changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the large numbers of people now at home during the day.
The consumer watchdog has been tasked with observing the special working group.
The ACCC said five RSPs and NBN Co have also sought urgent authorisation to provide support for consumers and small business customers experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19.
The ultimate aim is to ensure that consumers are able to stay connected to communications services throughout the pandemic.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said connections were now more important than ever, as Australians sought to stay productive and engaged, undertake home schooling, telehealth and access other services.
“The ability to do all this will also assist people to comply with increasingly strict social distancing measures,” he added.
“As it has with a number of industries already, the ACCC stands ready to assist telecommunications providers with approval of any coordinated measures that are urgent and necessary during this crisis.”
The group has been warned it must inform both the ACCC and the remainder of the country’s telcos not represented of any material decisions which may affect the sector at large.
The ACCC has the authority to review the interim authorisation at any time.
Following the announcement from the ACCC, NBN Co released its own statement:
"NBN Co welcomes the ACCC announcement today authorising the telecommunications industry’s cooperative and collaborative approach to help support Australian residential and business customers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," it wrote.
"We are pleased that the ACCC has moved swiftly to grant the necessary permission that allows NBN Co to continue to lead and co-ordinate the whole-of-industry response within the telecommunications and communications sector, and we recognise and appreciate the resolve and commitment of our industry partners during this time."