Australian telcos Telstra, Optus, TPG, Vocus and Aussie Broadband have banded together to appeal to NBN Co to reduce bandwidth fees amid the COVID-19 lockdowns in some states.
The network provider in July introduced some relief credits for retail service providers (RSPs) as the COVID-19 delta variant brought back some states into lockdowns. In comparison, NBN Co’s COVID relief for RSPs came in the form of a 40 percent capacity increase at no extra charge.
In a joint letter addressed to NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue, the five telcos said the relief credits have been “insufficient” and that the rebates “do not come anywhere close to” covering the increases in wholesale costs paid to NBN Co.
“Australians are suffering from the impact of COVID more today than at any other time since the outbreak began. Australia’s most populous states remain in lockdown and State borders remain closed as daily case numbers continue to hit record highs,” the letter read.
“Now is not the right time to pull back on the levels of support NBN Co has provided for previous lockdowns, and now is not the right time to profit from COVID-driven increases in consumer demand.
“The wholesale costs borne by all retail service providers continue to increase month after month at an unmanageable rate and, without further action by NBN Co, this will ultimately result in poor consumer outcomes.”
The telcos made similar criticisms shortly after NBN Co announced the rebate program, urging NBN Co to instead fully waive overage costs while the lockdowns continue.
The letter outlined two specific change requests, updating the starting month for baseline usage to May 2021 and updating the calculation methodology to use the individual usage of each RSP.
The Sydney lockdown order in June saw “unexpected and significant increases in usage” and that moving the baseline to the average from 1 May to 26 May 2021 would align with NBN Co’s most recent changes to the bundle inclusions and accommodate the demand increases.
The telcos added that changing NBN Co’s methodology to use individual RSP usage would allow them to calculate their maximum overage exposure and enable “efficient management” of input costs.
“We believe this proposal will more fairly share the burden of current COVID-related increases in consumer demand between NBN Co and RSPs, and protect consumers from higher prices and/or a lower quality service,” the letter read.
“We urge NBN Co to act quickly and apply these changes retrospectively from June 2021, which will allow the industry to continue meeting its social responsibility to Australians during this unprecedented time.”
In a separate statement, Vocus chief executive Kevin Russell said NBN Co was profiteering from lockdowns.
“Simple fact: NBN makes more money today with Australians forced to work from home than they did three months ago before lockdowns,” Russell said. “NBN is failing its social responsibility to the Australian public.”
CRN understands that Vocus also intends to dispute some of its bandwidth overage bills with NBN Co.