NBN Co asked once more to produce detailed financial data

Retail service providers seeking to build a new model to set NBN pricing and cost recovery have sought a range of data from NBN Co to progress their work.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that the request was made at a meeting on August 19, for which meeting notes were only published on Friday last week. [pdf]

RSPs have wanted a breakdown of NBN Co’s costs for several years now but have so far been thwarted in their attempts to access figures.

Data points from NBN Co are crucial to understanding key issues such as whether or not the costs of building the network so far are “efficiently” or “inefficiently” incurred, and how NBN services can be priced in future to meet industry and customer needs, in addition to the needs of NBN Co and its shareholders.

As reported by iTnews earlier today, a joint position paper from the top five RSPs – Telstra, Optus, TPG Telecom, Vocus and Aussie Broadband – effectively passes judgment that a large amount of money has been poorly spent by NBN Co, leaving RSPs and their customers to pay inflated fees.

NBN Co argues that it actually under-recovers its costs, meaning it should probably be charging even more, rather than less.

Whether data from NBN Co would allow RSPs to prove their position remains unclear, but RSPs have asked NBN Co to produce it anyway.

The ACCC said that a “submission from participants containing a list of metrics from NBN Co that should be shared to members of the working group to progress discussions” was tabled at the August 19 meeting.

“The data requested included information on the regulated asset base (RAB), rate of return, demand forecasts, operating expenditure and capital expenditure forecasts, asset lives, ICRA [initial cost recovery account] and utilisation forecasts,” the commission said.

The RAB and ICRA are existing mechanisms that are used to account for NBN Co’s incurred costs and the value of its assets.

Additions to these are vetted by the ACCC yearly, though RSPs have limited visibility of their make-up.

The ACCC said that participants “noted that timely provision of data is essential so the working group can complete its work well before negotiations on a new wholesale access agreement commence.”

However, no date was put on when NBN Co might produce the requested data.

“NBN Co will have the opportunity to present this data to working group members later with appropriate confidentiality requirements,” the ACCC noted.