Pipe Networks wins landmark building access case

Summary:Pipe Networks has won access to a Melbourne building to install cables, in a Federal Court case that could have wider implications for the entire telecommunications sector.

Australian fibre provider Pipe Networks has scored a victory against the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC), securing access to the company's Collins Street, Melbourne, office to install low-impact telecommunications equipment that the owners were seeking to block.

The judgment for the case, which was first reported by industry publication Communications Day, was handed down late last week, in relation to a 2011 access dispute between Pipe Networks and CSC.

Under Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act, telecommunications companies can access buildings to install fibre or other low-impact infrastructure into buildings such as apartments for the purposes of serving customers within that building, provided they meet the guidelines set out in the Act. This can be done without the permission of the owner.

Pipe has long complained about how the objection process built into this regime had been abused by land owners to delay access to the site, and would often result in fibre providers signing licence agreements with building owners, and paying rent to house their equipment just to avoid the delay.

"Once a carrier signs the licence agreement, that's it; they forfeit their right to connect other customers in that building, and everything from that point forward is dependent on the permission on the owners or managers of the building," Pipe Networks' legal counsel Dale Clapperton said in 2011. "If a carrier gets the shaft by a building owner or manager, there's no other recourse for them."

In the CSC case, Pipe needed to install a cable for Macquarie Bank, a tenant of the Collins Street building, and sent a land access notice to CSC in July 2011. Between July and August, CSC transferred operational control of the building over to a licensed telco known as PropertyComm. PropertyComm then said it would not allow Pipe to install the new equipment, unless Pipe entered into an agreement with PropertyComm.

Pipe said it was not required to enter an agreement, and took the matter to the Federal Court.

Justice Richard Tracey last week ruled that Pipe was entitled to the declaration that would give it access to the building.

The win for Pipe could benefit other telecommunications companies. In 2011, Clapperton noted that the issue of accessing buildings was something NBN Co will likely come across that would have the potential to further delay the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"When you're a carrier like NBN Co, it will not only delay the initial installation of facilities; it will also have the same effect on all subsequent maintenance activities," he said at the time. "We think the government needs to clarify if carriers need to pay rent or sign licence agreements."

Topics: Telcos, NBN

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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