Factors the ACMA will consider in declaring a protection zone in relation to a proposed cable
The ACMA recognises the importance of fast and reliable access to global communications networks for the Australian economy and the fundamental role of submarine cables in facilitating this access.
The purpose of a protection zone (PZ) is to provide enhanced security and protection for submarine cable(s) that lie within the limits of the zone. Once declared, it is an offence for a person to engage in an activity that is prohibited or to contravene a restriction imposed on an activity in a PZ or cause damage to a submarine cable in a PZ.
Declaration of a PZ is a two-step decision-making process for the ACMA. On receiving a request for a PZ, the ACMA must first decide whether to develop a proposal for the PZ which will initiate a consultation process to identify and consider the impact of the proposed PZ on all users of the sea and seabed. The second step in the process takes place after the consultation process has concluded, when the ACMA makes a decision about whether to declare the proposed PZ.
In order to develop a proposal for a PZ, the ACMA needs to be reasonably confident that an international cable of national significance has been installed in the requested PZ, or will be within a reasonable timeframe.
Sometimes this will be very clear either because the cable has already been installed or because plans for its installation are well advanced. Where the cable has not yet been installed, information that will give the ACMA the confidence it needs will include:
- the identity of the person(s) and/or company(s) committed to installing the cable
- copies of relevant contracts and regulatory approvals
- timeframes for the commencement and completion of installation
- detailed route information including the ‘international’ connection.
The ACMA acknowledges, however that a request to proceed to develop a proposal for a PZ may be made at a time when plans for the installation of a cable are less well advanced or are subject to change or conditions. In these situations, the ACMA will have regard to other information that may give sufficient confidence that a cable will be installed in the PZ. Such information may include:
- the identity of a person(s) and/or company(s) proposing to building the cable
- technical details for the cable construction
- information as to the proposed funding model and ownership structure for the cable project
- proposed route information including the ‘international’ connection
- progress in obtaining regulatory approvals from landing points in the proposed cable system
- progress in obtaining environmental regulatory approvals for the proposed route and issues that may arise in this process
- an assessment of likely demand and commitments for capacity from prospective customers
- contracts with landing party carriers and backhaul arrangements
- a proposed project timetable incorporating information about the timing for a marine route survey, cable manufacture, cable installation and a ready for service date.