Issue No 8: 12 April 2016
Government must act on Data Retention funding
One year after the passage of the Federal Government’s mandatory data retention legislation, Australia’s telecommunications providers are still waiting to learn how much of their multi-million dollar compliance costs will remain unfunded – and whether their business will be threatened as a result.
The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill passed the Senate on 13 April 2015 – one year ago tomorrow - and came into effect on 13 October last year.
The requirement to collect and store a huge volume of customer data was estimated by the Government’s consultants to entail an upfront capital cost to industry of up to $319.1 million. Industry expects the actual capital costs to be significantly higher than that.
The Government itself estimates that the ongoing data retention compliance costs to industry will total $738 million over the first 10 years of operation of the scheme.
The 2015-16 Federal Budget contained funding of $131.3 million over three years to make a contribution to the increased capital costs of telecommunications providers. Of that figure, almost $3 million will be siphoned off by the Attorney General’s Department for administrative costs.
“Only weeks away from the 2016-17 Budget, however, telecommunications providers are no closer to knowing how much they will receive from the Government.”
“They therefore don’t know how much their business – and ultimately their customers - will have to contribute to the costs of the data retention regime,” said Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton.
The round of applications from service providers seeking a share of the Government funding closed on 23 February this year.
The next step is for the Government Data Retention Implementation Working Group to meet and review the weightings that are to be used to help calculate how much subsidy funding each eligible service provider will receive.
That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
“No-one doubts that the Attorney-General’s Department has been working hard to implement the regime and sort out the funding question – but the ongoing delays are having perverse consequences,“Mr Stanton said.
“Many service providers – particularly smaller operators - have told us that they are doing very little or nothing to build their compliance capabilities at the moment.
“Who can blame them – if they start investing in new systems now, without knowing how much of that investment will remain unfunded once the subsidies arrive, they are putting themselves at risk of bankruptcy.”
“Other operators have been investing in compliance measures, but are doing so in an ongoing climate of uncertainty.”
“There has been a lot of well-based criticism of the data retention scheme itself.”
“But leaving that aside, the Government must at the very least act quickly to provide some certainty to the telecommunications sector, which is battling plenty of economic and commercial challenges aside from data retention.”
“So far the only thing that is certain is that all the Attorney-General’s Department costs will be fully covered.”
“That is cold comfort for service providers struggling to deal with the massive burden of the data retention legislation.”
Refreshing the industry guidelines for service migration to the NBN
Communications Alliance has published revised versions of the NBN Migration Management Industry Guideline (G652) and the Migration of Legacy Services Industry Guidance Note (IGN004).
The NBN Migration Management Industry Guideline (G652) is designed to document the roles and responsibilities of each relevant party, that is, Telstra (as copper network owner, a major telecommunications service wholesaler and a Retail Service Provider (RSP)), legacy network owners other than Telstra, RSPs, nbn, Medical Alarm Service Providers (MASPs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs) within fixed network migration process.
The Migration of Legacy Services Industry Guidance Note (IGN004) provides guidance to nbn, RSPs, ASPs and cablers who will need to interact with customers migrating their telecommunications and legacy Over-The-Top (OTT) services onto the NBN. Services covered in the Industry Guidance Note include monitored medical alarms, security alarm panels, monitored fire alarms and lift emergency phones. Specific guidance on the roles and responsibilities of all parties is covered including the provision of consistent messaging when communicating with customers.
Both documents incorporate changes driven by the Government’s Migration Assurance Policy and recommendations made via a Fire Alarm and Lift Phone Migration Roundtable discussing the migration of monitored fire alarms and lift emergency phone services from the copper network to the nbn and to support service continuity outcomes during the migration of these services. The publications have also been updated to address NBN access networks under the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) including Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Fibre to the Node/Building (FTTN/B) and Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC).
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