Building owners extort fibre providers: Pipe

Building owners extort fibre providers: Pipe

Summary: Pipe Networks has called on the Federal Government to overhaul carrier access laws for apartment buildings, stating that extortion and blackmail could hit the NBN Co roll-out.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

Pipe Networks has called on the Federal Government to overhaul carrier access laws for apartment buildings, stating that extortion and blackmail could hit the NBN Co roll-out.

Under law established in 1999, fibre providers are allowed to install fibre into buildings such as apartments for the purposes of serving customers within that building, provided there aren't legitimate objections from the building owners as set out under the legislation.

Pipe Networks legal counsel Dale Clapperton told an audience at the Communications Day Summit in Sydney this morning that the objection system had been abused by construction owners who used it to force fibre providers to sign licence agreements and pay rent to install fibre into the buildings.

"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," he said. "If a carrier gets the shaft by a building owner or manager there's no other recourse for them."

He said that while there needed to be oversight over the powers fibre providers have to enter buildings, there was no disincentive for building owners to object to fibre providers moving into their building and no limit to the amount of times they can complain. The costs for providers to follow these up can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take up to a year to get through, according to Clapperton.

"Owners and managers will quite blatantly use extortionate tactics to achieve their goals of licence agreements and payment of rent," he said. "The objection consultation process is broken."

With the impending roll-out of the NBN, building owners charging rent to a number of carriers who then remove their infrastructure from a building and opt to offer services through NBN's fibre would find themselves out of pocket and would likely seek compensation from NBN Co, Clapperton said.

"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. "We think the government needs to clarify if carriers need to pay rent or sign licence agreements."

NBN Co recently highlighted that difficulty in getting permission from apartment building owners was one of the reasons why the take-up rate in Brunswick in Melbourne was so low.

Whatever reform the government makes to the legislation must apply to all existing fibre providers and not just NBN Co, Clapperton said.

"In our view there are some serious deficiencies in the existing regime and giving NBN Co special powers over and above the powers enjoyed by other carriers would, in our view, be inconsistent with the government's level playing field approach to this issue," he said.

"It would put the other carriers who are still trying to compete with NBN Co to the extent allowed by the anti-cherry-picking regime at a significant competitive disadvantage."

Clapperton said that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy had been consulting with industry on the issue.

Topics: NBN, Broadband


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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  • Perhaps those avaricious building managers are merely taking their cue from all the state governments, who demand usurious 'management fees' for graciously allowing any and every federal project to proceed within their borders?
  • Really, strong regulation would knock this matter on its head.
    Knowledge Expert
  • Can we make fiber access constitutional right, please? :)
    Finland have made 1Mbit/s access a constitutional right.
    • The UN are pushing for (and some European countries have already legislated) "internet access (not fibre per se`) as a basic human right"..

      So the NBN naysayers who say to their fellow Aussies in the bush (not me)..."you choose to live in the sticks, so bad luck", are looking sillier by the day (if that's possible)!
      • idoit! we all know the effectiveness of the UN and well European countries legislating internet access as a basic human right, well big deal!
        Knowledge Expert
  • We're not to catch up, when we can SURPASS!
    • Exactly what I've been saying for nearly two years. By the time we "catch up", we'll be out of date.
  • The same problems arise with any premises where the occupier isn't the owner. I know full well that my landlord wouldn't sign anything to let NBNCo install fibre in the house I live in, what options do I have then? None.

    There needs to be Australian wide rules around this to ensure that every house and business gets this access, perhaps if the building owner doesn't accept installation from NBNCo they have to provide access themselves to NBNCo network.
  • Clearly, any industry sector has its views on issues that may block their businesses objectives to maximise profit. Hey we all want it for free - right! Who cares about the other guy? To say this is simply an issue due to building owners represents only one side of the story. Perhaps the real question is - should a property owner, beceiged by an endless demand to place telecom infrastructure in their property, add real costs to their management of the site that are not compensated for? As the owner, would you be prepared to sponcer a Service Provider to permanent space and the use of your onsite manpower resources for free? What about security risks and other on costs due to lost space in your building you now need to pay for? While real costs to provide Telecom services need to be well managed, this should not be at the cost to another sector of the business community? Lets hear all the facts........
  • ... Remind me to vote that my body corporate management not get in the way of fibre installers.