There's a mobile phone tower going up in my local area. What do I need to know and what can I do?
The deployment of mobile phone towers within communities is regulated by a number of different pieces of legislation. Legislation has been developed at all three levels of government: local, state and federal; to regulate and plan communications network deployment.
Some facilities will be subject to the legislation from all three levels of government. Other facilities will have exemptions from local and state legislation, and will therefore only be subject to federal legislation. The questions below should help you to identify what legislation will apply to the facility proposed for your local area.
Has the carrier submitted a development application?
The applicable regulatory arrangements on a particular mobile phone tower depends on whether the tower is installed through a development application or not. If the tower is subject to a development application then the facility will be subject to state and local planning laws.
The facility will still have to meet certain requirements under the communications legislation (see next column). However it will be your local council that will determine whether or not to approve the facility. A list of links to state planning departments is available.
If they haven't submitted a development application, what other legislation protects my rights?
If the facility is not subject to a development application, then it may need to comply with the Communications Alliance (formerly ACIF and SPAN) Industry Code ACIF C564:2004 Deployment of Mobile Phone Network Infrastructure. The code requires carriers apply a precautionary approach to the design, operation and selection of sites for communication facilities.
The code provides communities with an opportunity to give the carrier their comments on the proposed facility. Find out more about the information you can access under the code, and how to voice your opinions about the facility.
For information on low impact facilities and the powers and immunities granted to telecommunications carriers under Commonwealth legislation, you may want to take a look at the ACMA's fact sheet on Installation of telecommunications facilities. The fact sheet contains information on the Telecommunications (Low impact facilities) Determination 1997 and the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997.
What other legislation may apply to mobile phone tower deployment?
In addition to the above mentioned legislation, section 162 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 enables the ACMA to make mandatory standards to protect the health and safety of people who operate, work on, use or are reasonably likely to be affected by the operation of radiocommunications transmitters.
Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 also provides authority for carriers to inspect land, maintain facilities or install any declared 'low impact facilities' or temporary defence facilities. However, when they undertake these activities, they must comply with certain requirements that are set out in the schedule, as well as additional legislative requirements in the Telecommunications Code of Practice 1997.