Telcos eye compensation from network disclosure bill

With legislation obliging telcos to share their network infrastructure details passed by the House of Representatives last night, it has been revealed that the government may compensate carriers for sharing their intellectual property.

With legislation obliging telcos to share their network infrastructure details passed by the House of Representatives last night, it has been revealed that the government may compensate carriers for sharing their intellectual property.

Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, put forward a Notice of Motion for the amendment in the Senate yesterday, after writing to Australia's telcos to advise them that he would enact legislation requiring them to comply with government requests to share their network infrastructure information with potential tenderers for the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network.

The amendment was passed by the House of Representatives with a winning margin of 36 votes, and will now go to the Upper House for further consideration.

It was revealed today that any number of carriers could lodge claims for compensation if disadvantaged by having to disclose the schematics of their network infrastructure.

"It's really just a standard practice, you'll find a similar compensation clause regarding acquired IP in every other [comparable] bill," said a spokesperson for Senator Conroy today. "There are compensation clauses to do with almost every type of infrastructure, it's just standard government practice."

The Labor government drafted the amendment after a number of telcos -- including Telstra -- did not hand over their infrastructure details by the original 3 March deadline, with the national carrier claiming that distributing such information widely could compromise national security.

Reports emerged last night that Brisbane based ISP Pipe Networks' CEO, Bevan Slattery, had considered mounting a constitutional challenge against the compulsory acquisition of network infrastructure data, but played down the reports today, telling ZDNet.com.au: "We're not really interested in that kind of thing, those comments were taken out of context... we were just testing the water."

"We're still very much working through the matter with the department," he said.

Senator Conroy's spokesperson said the compensation clause is there primarily to mitigate the effects of compulsory acquisition -- such as the collection of network infrastructure data.

The amendment was passed after lengthy debate yesterday and last night on another piece of associated legislation: the Communications Fund amendment.

Nationals MP Kay Hull told the House yesterday that she believes Labor's proposed FTTN national rollout is not a viable proposition, citing the total expenditure by the South Korean government to rollout a similar network.

"A fibre rollout in South Korea cost the South Korean government AU$40 billion. Australia's landmass is so much greater than South Korea's -- yet they think that AU$4.7 billion will reach our landmass? It is an absolute obscenity," she said.

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