The Australian Government has released a public consultation paper on proposed changes to telecommunications carrier powers and immunities laws, so they remain relevant in the rapidly evolving communications sector.
Carrier powers and immunities are designed to strike the right balance between the community's need to access reliable, affordable telecommunications services while ensuring that local governments and communities have a say in the deployment of major telecommunications infrastructure.
Today, telecommunications carriers have a range of powers and immunities to allow for the installation and maintenance of certain network facilities, such as pillars and antennas, quickly and cost-effectively. This helps ensure Australians have better access to the telecommunications services they need.
Most carrier powers and immunities have been in place since 1997. Since then, fixed-line and mobile communications technologies have evolved rapidly and there has been a dramatic increase in demand for voice and broadband services.
The changes seek to clarify the operation of some existing powers and immunities, allow for the deployment of new types of network infrastructure, make changes to some existing facility types, and streamline notification and objection rules.
The installation of freestanding mobile towers is not a subject of the consultation paper. Such towers are subject to State and Territory planning requirements.
The changes canvassed in the consultation paper could allow carriers to better meet the needs of consumers at lower cost, and simultaneously reduce the burden on Government in the administration of these regulations.
Research undertaken by the telecommunications industry has estimated that the proposed changes could result in economic and social productivity benefits for consumers, worth over $50 million per year, and regulatory cost savings to industry and Government worth over $100 million per year.
The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking feedback on whether the changes should proceed, and if so, in what form. Interested parties, including local governments, community groups and industry are encouraged to comment.
More information, including the consultation paper and draft amendments to the legislative instruments are available at: https://www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/consultation-possible-amendments-telecommunications-carrier-powers-and-immunities.Submissions are required to be lodged by 21 July, 2017.