The Australian Communications and Media Authority, following the issuing of a remedial direction to Wobygong Pty Ltd in relation to multiple breaches of Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act), is taking this opportunity to remind telecommunications carriers to discharge their obligations under the law when installing facilities on public and private land.
An extensive ACMA investigation (see Word [docx] version of report ) found carrier Wobygong Pty Ltd contravened its carrier licence conditions on 45 occasions between 2008 and 2010 when rolling out network infrastructure in the Port Macquarie area.
Breaches included not restoring land to its previous condition, failing to protect the safety of people during installation, and not taking reasonable steps to protect the environment. The investigation also found that Wobygong had installed facilities across 39 sites that were not authorised under the Act. Such facilities are subject to local government regulation under relevant State and Territory planning laws.
The number and nature of these contraventions were serious. However, Wobygong has since undertaken extensive 'make good' works to rectify each of the problems it had caused in Port Macquarie.
Given this, the ACMA decided that the most appropriate course under the circumstances of this case was to issue specific remedial directions that will require Wobygong to undertake a range of activities designed to prevent it recontravening.
This issue has a broader message for the telecommunications industry about the need to ensure appropriate plans are in place to manage issues of infrastructure installation.
'The Wobygong case shows what the consequences are for communities and carriers when they do not follow best practice in their network rollouts,' said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. 'The industry is on notice that shoddy practices and work will not be tolerated.
'The ACMA continues to monitor carrier installations across the country, with particular scrutiny on safety, environmental and land restoration obligations,' Mr Chapman added. 'The ACMA will also be closely monitoring the installation of fibre optic networks in new estates.'
The remedial direction requires Wobygong to undertake a number of specific actions, including:
Remedial directions are a regulatory tool for imposing strict requirements on carriers to achieve compliance. They allow the ACMA to monitor a carrier's actions against those requirements. A breach of remedial directions may lead to civil proceedings, which can include substantial financial penalties.
1. Schedule 3 obligations
Licensed telecommunications carriers are authorised under Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act to install a limited range of facilities without seeking state, territory or local government planning approval. The most common of these are known as 'low-impact' facilities which include underground cabling as specified in the Telecommunications (Low-Impact Facilities) Determination 1997.
Schedule 3 of the Act sets out the conditions with which licensed carriers must comply when installing facilities including, amongst others, to:
2. ACMA role
Where the standard carrier licence conditions oblige carriers to comply with the Act which includes the relevant parts of Schedule 3, the ACMA has primary regulatory responsibility for ensuring carrier compliance.
However complaints about the activities of licensed carriers authorised by the Act are managed by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the first instance.
If a particular facility is not authorised under the Telecommunications Act, it is subject to a local council planning scheme. The ACMA does not authorise low-impact facility installations, nor does it assess installations to determine whether they are low-impact. That is a role for local government through its planning function.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0411 504 687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.