The Telecommunications Act 1997 regulatory regime is designed to achieve full and open competition and regulate carriers and service providers.
The Telecommunications Act separately identifies persons who have regulatory obligations relating to telecommunications network infrastructure-carriers-and those persons who provide carriage or content services to the public by using this infrastructure-service providers.
A carrier is the holder of a telecommunications carrier licence granted under the Act. There are no restrictions on the number of carrier licences that may be issued. Any corporation, partnership, (where each member of the partnership is a corporation), or public body may apply for a carrier licence.
Carriers must be individually licensed by the ACMA. Legislative requirements for granting a carrier licence include the payment of an application fee. There are also special provisions concerning disqualified applicants.
Carriers are obliged to comply with licence conditions, including:
- the Telecommunications Act 1997 (for example, contributing to the net losses incurred by universal service providers in fulfilling the universal service obligation)
- the telecommunications access regime and related obligations concerning access to carriers' communications facilities and powers and immunities, such as some exemptions from local planning laws.
The Minister for Communications can impose further licence conditions on individual carriers, classes of carriers or all carriers. These are called licence condition declarations.
The owner of certain telecommunication facilities (known as 'network units') that are used to supply carriage services (services for the carrying of communications, including telephony services and Internet access services) to the public must either:
- hold a carrier licence; or
- make arrangements to ensure that a nominated licensed carrier accepts carrier-related responsibilities for those network units and that the ACMA has made a nominated carrier declaration in relation to that network unit and the nominated carrier.
There are four types of network units:
- single line links connecting distinct places in Australia
- multiple line links connecting distinct places in Australia
- designated radiocommunications facilities
- facilities specified in a ministerial determination under section 29 of the Telecommunications Act.
A carriage service provider, in general, supplies, or proposes to supply, listed carriage services (that is, carriage services between two or more points at least one of which is located in Australia) to the public using network units owned by a carrier or units covered by a nominated carrier declaration.
Intermediaries, that is, persons who arrange or propose to arrange the supply of a listed carriage service by a carriage service provider to a third person (often referred to as a reseller or a rebiller) are treated as carriage service providers.
A content service provider supplies, or proposes to supply, content services to the public (for example, a pay TV service). Where carriers are engaged in these activities, they are also considered to be a content or carriage service providers.
All service providers must comply with legislated service provider rules. The majority of these rules only impose obligations on carriage service providers and not on content service providers. They include obligations to:
The ACMA also has powers to impose additional service provider rules.
For more information about carrier licensing and service provider regulation, see the ACMA website, or contact ACMA's Networks and National Interests Section on telephone (03) 9963 6800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.