Telecommunications facilities & rural communities | ACMA

Telecommunications facilities & rural communities

The ACMA is responsible for administering legislative provisions relating to powers and immunities of carriers when installing communications infrastructure, including certain radiocommunications and fixed-line infrastructure.

The information on this page aims to outline the rights and obligations of carriers when installing telecommunications facilities as well as the rights and obligations of landowners and occupiers under the legislative framework.

Planning

In many situations, carriers must seek approval for deployment of communications infrastructure through local council planning schemes. However, there are certain activities undertaken by carriers that are exempt from state or territory laws. These exemptions are contained in Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997. The most common exemption applies to the installation of 'low impact facilities'.

When deploying telecommunications infrastructure, carriers must also adhere to the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997 and for mobile phone towers, the industry code C564:2011 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment.

The ACMA website also has responses to frequently asked questions as well as fact sheets on low impacts faculties:

What are low-impact facilities?

Low-impact facilities are an important part of telecommunications networks. They include underground cabling such as optical fibre, as well as small antennae and radiocommunications dishes erected on existing towers or buildings. The Telecommunications (Low-Impact Facilities) Determination 1997 specifies the low-impact facilities regulated by the Telecommunications Act and the areas (residential, commercial, industrial or rural) where they can be installed.

What rights do carriers have?

Under the Telecommunications Act, carriers have the following rights:

Right to inspect land

Carriers may enter and inspect any land, and do anything on the land that is necessary or desirable for the purpose of determining whether the land is suitable for their purposes.

Right to install low-impact facilities

Carriers have the right to install a low-impact facility.

Right to maintain telecommunications facilities

Carriers have the right to maintain a telecommunications facility and may do anything necessary for the purpose of maintaining a facility including the alteration, removal, repair or replacement of the whole or part of the original facility in its original location, subject to certain constraints.

What are carriers' responsibilities?

Carriers seeking to install a low-impact facility must comply with Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act and the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997.

The Code of Practice requires carriers to:

  • provide written notice to landowners and occupiers, outlining the objection process, before commencing installation
  • attempt to resolve objections from landowners and or occupiers and where any objection cannot be resolved, refer the objection to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)
  • do as little damage as practicable and act according to good engineering practice
  • comply with recognised industry standards
  • take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land is restored to a condition similar to that before an activity began
  • take all reasonable steps to use existing facilities for the activity
  • when installing a low-impact facility between 10.00 pm and 7.00 am, make no more noise than is allowed under the relevant state or territory law applying to similar activities.

What are the rights of landowners and occupiers?

Before carrying out activities installing telecommunications facilities, the carrier must give written notice of its intentions to the owner of the land and the occupier, except where landowners or occupiers have waived their right of notification, or activities need to be carried out without delay for protective reasons (refer to How much notice should I receive from a carrier? under Frequently Asked Questions involving low-impact facilities below).

The notice must specify the purpose for which the carrier intends to engage in the activity and contain a statement that if a person suffers financial loss or damage in relation to the property because of anything done by the carrier in engaging in the activity, compensation may be payable.

In most cases, notice must be given 10 business days before the carrier begins the activity. If the land is not in an area of environmental significance or sensitive area, or the activity does not cause any material disturbance to the land, at least two business days’ notice must be given before the carrier begins the inspection of land. The notice can be served on a person by delivering it personally, leaving it at or sending it by pre-paid post to the address of the place of residence or business of each owner and occupier of the land.

In the first instance, a complaint by a landowner or occupier should be directed to the carrier. Where the carrier fails to resolve the complaint, the matter can then be raised with the TIO, provided that the strict timeframes are met.

Reasons for objecting can only relate to any or all of the following matters:

  • using the objector's land to engage in the activity
  • the location of a facility on the objector's land
  • the date when a carrier proposes to start the activity, engage in it or stop it
  • the likely effect of the activity on the objector's land
  • the carrier's proposals to minimise detriment and inconvenience, and to do as little damage as practicable, to the objector's land.

An owner of a property, or a person with an interest in a property, is entitled to compensation for any financial loss or damage caused by a carrier when entering and inspecting land, or installing or maintaining a low-impact facility. Section 42 of Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act provides for compensation in relation to financial loss or damage, while section 62 of Schedule 3 allows for compensation with regard to acquisition of property. A claim for compensation is not a ground for objection under the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997. If the amount of compensation cannot be agreed between the parties, a court may decide on what is a reasonable amount.

Frequently asked questions involving low-impact facilities

How much notice should I receive from a carrier?

A carrier is required to give written notice to the owner of land and the occupier of the land if the land is occupied by someone other than the owner. The notice must specify the purpose for which the carrier intends to engage in the activity and must contain a statement to the effect that if a person suffers financial loss or damage in relation to the property because of anything done by the carrier in engaging in the activity, compensation may be payable. Further, the notice must be given at least 10 business days before the carrier begins to engage in the activity. Only two business day’s notice is required before a carrier begins an inspection of land if the land is not in an area of environmental significance. However, a notice is not required in circumstances where the activities need to be carried out without delay in order to protect any or all of the following:

  • the integrity of a telecommunications network or a facility
  • the health and safety of persons
  • the environment
  • property
  • the maintenance of an adequate level of service.

Carrier responsibilities in minimizing detriment and inconvenience to property owners

Carriers are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that they cause as little detriment and inconvenience and as little damage as is practicable. Carriers must also take all reasonable steps to protect the environment.

Landowner and occupier concerns about the transfer of weeds or disease via carrier equipment should be discussed with the carrier. The landowner or occupier should make use of the written objection process if such concerns are unresolved.

What can I do if I am dissatisfied with the restoration work carried out on my land?

A carrier is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that it causes as little detriment and inconvenience and does as little damage as practicable. They must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land is restored to a condition similar to the condition before the activity began. Restoration work must commence within 10 days of the completion of the activity unless a later date has been agreed between the owner, the occupier and the carrier.

Landowners and occupiers should discuss planned restoration work and any concerns about the quality of the work with the carrier in the first instance and, if dissatisfied, raise the matter with the TIO.

What is the role of the TIO?

The role of the TIO is to receive, investigate and help resolve complaints about the provision or supply of telephone and internet services. The TIO may also investigate and help resolve certain complaints made by landowners or occupiers of land. These include, but are not limited to:

  • failure by a carrier to give notice of its intention to exercise its statutory rights
  • the manner in which the carrier entered the land
  • objections to carrier notices
  • failure to take all reasonable steps to cause as little detriment, inconvenience and damage as is reasonably practicable, and/or failure to repair damage
  • inadequate compensation.

The TIO may investigate an objection and decide whether to issue a direction to the carrier about the installation. Carriers must comply with a direction issued by the TIO. Compensation may be payable to a person who suffers financial loss or damage because of the actions of a carrier when installing a low-impact facility. If the parties cannot agree on suitable compensation, the matter may be referred to the courts for decision.

The TIO can be contacted by telephone on (free call) 1800 062 058, by email to tio@tio.com.au or by mail to PO Box 276 Collins Street West, Melbourne Vic 8007.

What is the role of the ACMA?

The role of the ACMA is to investigate systemic breaches of the Telecommunications Act and to pursue, where appropriate, regulatory action against carriers for breaches of the Act or the Telecommunications Code of Practice. The ACMA does not have the power to make determinations or recommendations for compensation for the resolution of individual complaints.

Useful references

Where to find Commonwealth legislation and related documents:

The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Schedule 3) and the Telecommunications (Low-Impact Facilities) Determination 1997 are available from the Comlaw website at www.comlaw.gov.au.

The Industry Code C564:2011 Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment is on the Communications Alliance website at www.commsalliance.com.au.

Other publications

The ACMA has a range of relevant information including:

Other useful websites

Last updated: 31 July 2017