The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) plays a vital role on monitoring and reporting on the installation of telecommunications facilities in Australia. This page explains the ACMA’s reporting requirements in detail.
Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) gives carriers the power to inspect land, install and maintain some facilities. The Act provides immunities for carriers, to allow them to install specified types of facilities, without seeking state, territory or local government planning approval. Other legislation relating to this includes:
The ACMA can investigate complaints about carrier non-compliance with the Act, Ministerial Code of Practice or a registered Industry Code. The ACMA can warn or direct a carrier about how to comply with its obligations under the Act and its legislative instruments. Carriers who fail to comply with an ACMA direction can be financially penalised.
The ACMA does not have power to determine whether or not a particular facility is low-impact, or direct a carrier to co-locate a facility. Binding determinations as to whether a facility is a low-impact facility are made by courts, typically in response to proceedings commenced by state, territory and local governments.
ACMA reports on telecommunications facilities installation
ACMA Clause 50 report
The ACMA reports to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on progress in placing telecommunications facilities underground. This requirement is set out in clause 50 of Schedule 3 to the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The clause 50 reporting framework was developed in the wake of extensive industry activity as Telstra and Optus rolled out substantial HFC cable networks for delivery of pay television and broadband services. Optus and Telstra’s aerial cabling activity caused significant opposition among communities and councils who were concerned about the lack of consultation and the impact of the cables on their visual environment. Since the Telecommunications Act 1997 came into effect, aerial cables have been precluded from installation under Commonwealth authorisation and the ACMA will be required to monitor and report on industry’s cabling activity.
Given the recent apparent shift in industry aerial cabling activity, the ACMA considered it timely to review the clause 50 reporting framework to ensure that the reports meet the policy needs of the portfolio into the future.
As a key outcome of this review, the ACMA determined simplified requests for cabling data and a standardised format for data provision will enhance the quality and consistency of cabling information provided by industry. This will facilitate the data analysis and usefulness of the report to its Minister and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
The ACMA decided 18-month reporting periods would be changed to annual reporting periods to overcome problems some industry participants have experienced in providing data for an irregular period. A financial year reporting period will also enable better comparison of the cabling data with other industry data.
Putting cables underground report
In 1998, the Putting Cables Underground Working Group produced a report of the review of options for placing facilities underground, as required under Clause 49 of Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The Government established the group in response to community concerns about the impact of overhead electricity and telecommunications cables.
The Working Group examined the technical, economic, legal and social issues involved in putting existing aerial cable underground. Given the diversity of issues and individual local circumstances which influence any decision to put cables underground, the working group did not consider it to be appropriate to make recommendations supporting a particular course of action. Instead, the group chose to make a number of findings in regard to the benefits and possible funding options, and concluded that each project should be considered on its own merits.
In late November 2001, NSW Premier Bob Carr announced that his Government would undertake a comprehensive study on the feasibility of placing Sydney’s powerlines underground. The former ACA was advised of this study because it had potential to impact on carrier’s obligations with regard to overhead cables that share infrastructure with non-communications cables.
The Government decided not to mandate a state-wide undergrounding project on the basis of this study, which found that the costs far outweighed the quantifiable benefits for undergrounding electricity cable.
The Planning Measures for the Undergrounding Working Group was subsequently established by the NSW Government to examine alternative initiatives, including:
undergrounding in new developments
undergrounding in redevelopments in existing urban areas in conjunction with local councils
co-ordination of undergrounding electricity cables with essential infrastructure including telecommunications.
However, the work of this Working Group did not result in planning measures for implementation. Accordingly, NSW electricity distributors continue to work closely with individual local councils on undergrounding electricity cables for projects proposed by local councils and property developers. These projects primarily involve the development of new residential estates and redevelopment of commercial sites and typically also involve undergrounding telecommunications cables. The ACMA is advised that this approach will enable almost half of Sydney's electricity network to be undergrounded within the next twenty years at no additional cost to consumers.