[LINK] Telecommunications Regulatory Reform

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Mon Oct 5 13:35:10 AEDT 2009

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the 
Digital Economy, announced reforms to Australian telecommunications law 
on 16 September 2009. I will be speaking about these at an ATUG "Focus 
Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra on 
14 October <http://atug.org.au/FocusForums/canberrarego.pdf>.

The reforms are in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment 
(Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009: 

For such an important reform the amount of legislation is relatively 
small (144 pages). However, extensive detailed changes are proposed to 
complex telecommunication legislation, and this is likely to keep 
lawyers and court busy for decades. As an example, the legislation 
defines a "VOIP Service" in terms of "the internet protocol" without 
defining what "the internet protocol" is. This definition could cover 
all telephone calls, or none, depending on how you want to define it. A 
court decision could depend on something as small as if "internet" is 
written with a lower case or upper case "I" in the legislation.

The package is mostly about forcing a functional separation of Telstra, 
between its wholesale and retail parts. There is a detailed definition 
of what such a separation requires, in the draft legislation, defining 
terms such as functional, functional separation principles, functional 
separation requirements determination, regulated service, retail 
business unit, supply, and a wholesale/network business unit. 
Essentially the legislation will give the Minister the power to say how 
this is done, with the ACCC and Telstra to agree the details and the 
courts deciding in the absence of an agreement.

What the reforms do not seem to address are wider issues of the 
convergence of telecommunications with broadcasting and the effects on 
telephony, radio and TV broadcasting industries and pay TV. What will 
therefore be needed is another and more extensive set of reforms for 
broadcasting reform to match the telecommunications reform.

For some excerpts from the legislation, see my blog posting: 

Tom Worthington FACS HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Lecturer, The Australian National University t: 02 61255694
Computer Science http://cs.anu.edu.au/people.php?StaffID=140274

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