Licensed telecommunications carriers have the power to undertake specified activities, including inspection of land; installation of certain facilities, most commonly low-impact facilities; and maintenance of facilities. They can do these in accordance with conditions in the:
If all conditions specified in the legislation and codes are met, carriers may undertake land inspections, facilities installations and facility maintenance activities with immunity from certain state and territory laws, as outlined in Schedule 3 of the Act.
Accessing existing carrier facilities
The regulatory responsibility for telecommunications facilities is shared between the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (the ACCC). The ACCC is responsible for administering the provisions contained in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Act that deal with access to supplementary telecommunications facilities and the provisions contained in Part 5 of Schedule 1 to the Act that deal with access to telecommunications towers and underground facilities. The ACMA is responsible for administering the provisions contained in Schedule 3 to the Act that deal with the installation of a telecommunications facility.
Under clause 37 of Part 5 of Schedule 1 of the Act the ACCC has developed the Code of Access to Telecommunications Transmission Towers, Sites of Towers and Underground Facilities (the ACCC Code). The ACCC Code sets out the administrative arrangements for applying for access to facilities covered in Schedule 1 of the Act.
For more information on the ACCC Code see the ACCC's Facilities Access Code webpage.
The Guide outlines the legislative requirements governing access to-and installation of-telecommunications facilities, as well as the applicable administrative policies and procedures of the ACMA and the ACCC.
Working with public utilities
Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has developed an operational guideline, G591:2006 Telecommunications in Road Reserves—Operational Guidelines for Installations, which gives operational guidance to road authorities and telecommunication carriers on the basic principles of installation, maintenance and safety issues associated with telecommunication installations in road reserves.
Cabling rural areas
Telecommunications companies continue to roll out communications infrastructure, including optical fibre cables. The ACMA has developed a brochure - Telecommunications facilities - Information for rural communities - to inform rural landowners and occupiers about their rights and obligations under the current legislation and regulation regime.
Underground and aerial cables
Underground cables are generally classified as low-impact facilities and can be widely installed, except for areas of environmental significance.
Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) stipulates that a 'designated overhead line' (including aerial cables of greater than 13mm external diameter) cannot be a 'low-impact facility'. Aerial cabling cannot is therefore governed by applicable state or territory planning law, usually administered by the relevant local council.
While the Act does not regulate the installation of aerial cables, it does provide for their removal in limited circumstances. Specifically, clause 51 of Schedule 3 to the Act requires that carriers remove aerial cabling within six months, where the cable has shared poles with other non-communications cabling (such as electricity cables) and all the non-communications cabling has been permanently removed and not replaced.
A number of industry bodies have undertaken initiatives relating to mobile phone infrastructure. Communications Alliance Ltd has developed an industry code, C564:2011 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment (the Industry Code) that specifies a 'precautionary approach' for the building and operation of radio-based telecommunications equipment.
Site specific obligations on carriers include having regard to minimising electromagnetic energy emissions exposure to the public, and the objective of avoiding community-sensitive locations. Examples of community-sensitive locations include residential areas, childcare centres, schools, aged care centres, hospitals and regional icons.
Carriers have to notify councils and affected parties of the consultation process, and resolve any issues by direct negotiation. Complaints concerning carrier performance of mandatory obligations may be lodged through a complaint mechanism allowed for in the Industry Code, and the ACMA can investigate breaches by carriers. Local councils and communities can therefore participate in the activities of telecommunications carriers when they plan, install and operate telecommunications facilities.
In-building subscriber connections
In-building subscriber connection equipment connects customers within a building to the existing network. The Telecommunications (Low-Impact Facilities) Determination 1997 defines in-building subscriber connections. Accordingly, carriers may install such facilities in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997.
Communications Alliance Ltd has worked closely with carriers to find technical solutions to access issues relating to in-building subscriber equipment. The ACIF guideline, ACIF G571:2002 Building Access Operations and Installation was developed in 2002 to assist carriers and building owner in managing this matter.
Access to transmission towers, tower sites and underground facilities
Schedule 1 Part 5 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 provides that a carrier (the first carrier), on the request of another carrier (the second carrier), must provide access to telecommunications towers, tower sites and eligible underground facilities. The first carrier is not required to comply with such a request if there is in force a written certificate issued by the ACCC stating that, in its opinion, the requested access is not technically feasible in relation to the subject site or facility.