Pipe Networks wins landmark building access case

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


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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  • Win

    I think this will be a great benefit to all future internet plans. Stopping building owners from monopolizing internet access to their buildings and increasing the speed of the NBN roll out.
    • The win is the exposure of the practice

      "PropertyComm, which has a carrier licence, was set up in May last year.

      It has two directors, Sue Davey and Robert Reid, according to documents lodged with the corporate regulator, and 101 Collins Pty Ltd is believed to be its only customer."

      Well done for PIPE standing up to them. It's not likely to improve building access; the laws already existed and took 2 years to get access to one building.

      I suggest Josh follows the money.
      Richard Flude
      • Thanks Richard

        Interesting response Richard. I still don't see how it applies.

        Once a case example has been established, it then becomes easier for following cases to be judged. This happens again with very similar circumstances and they go to court. The people trying to get access says this has happened before, this is the similar case, this was the result. Judge looks at case study and goes ok, its valid. Bang case adjourned you are given access rights.

        Also means building owners are less likely to put up the same resistance as before because they know that the law will vote against them.
  • Landmark Case?

    I think it is rather sensationalised to call this a landmark case. Carriers like Pipe Networks have been using their carrier powers for years and paying no rent in the vast majority of cases. In the process they were sold for $373,000,000 to TPG and are still crying poor. In fact for Dooley to say that they have paid $10,000 for an installation is fanciful and I would love to see where that was done and how many times. We need competition and I am not in favour of high rents for low cost carriers, but owners are left with the mess left behind and very little rights under the Act. That is something you don't hear from the carriers. Some of the buildings are now in shocking condition with no riser space left and make good not being performed. Check out the share prices of the carriers vs REIT's if you disagree with who is making money these days. This case was about Schedule 3 vs Schedule 1 of the Act. If writers actually read the judgement we could have more even handed and accurate reporting, particularly Comms Day, whose subscriptions are paid for by the carriers.
    • Erm

      I actually did read the judgment. I linked to it in the article. I didn't go into the Schedule 3 v Schedule 1 thing because it is a matter of interpretation of the law, whereas the general thrust of the case had a much broader scope.

      I know this has been an issue for the telcos for a while.
      Josh Taylor
      • Thanks Josh

        I assume this is the first time this has actually been tested in court?
    • This is very interesting

      I am intrigued by your angle of approach to this case. I would love to see some of the links to the sources of your information so i can do read up on this too. If you could post them in a reply that would be great.