Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday proposed amendments to existing legislation that would make it easier for the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) to connect premises to the network.
The amendments would enable NBN Co and other operators of fast broadband networks to bypass state and territory planning laws to connect premises, put equipment in multi-unit buildings and deploy new infrastructure in streets, using commonwealth laws instead.
This is being achieved by amending the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 1997 and the Telecommunications Regulations 2001 to extend the definition of what is considered under the bracket of "low impact facilities", according to explanatory documents released by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Low impact facilities can be installed by carriers without being subject to state and territory laws and, if required, can be installed without the consent of the landowner or occupier, although carriers do have to notify the affected party, who can object to the installation.
Currently, overhead cabling to a diameter of 13mm is considered a low impact facility. The proposed changes would extend this to cables up to 30mm. The amendments would also seek to have new facilities for the aerial deployment of fibre, for example, a splice enclosure (which splits out strands of cable), to be included under the low impact group.
The changes would allow NBN Co to install drop cables overhead or underground between the network and the premises, with the diameter for single-dwelling premises to be up to 13mm and that for multi-dwelling premises reaching up to 30mm. The explanatory document said that the Telstra deal would allow NBN Co to reduce overhead deployment. The changes don't allow for the installation of new poles in streets.
NBN Co would also be able to install devices on the outside of premises to connect them to the network, such as the optical fibre termination box, network termination units and power supplies. However, the documents said that the NBN Co had indicated that in most instances the last two would be installed inside once the owner or occupier had requested a service via a provider. Under the proposed changes, NBN Co would be immune from state and territory planning laws if a customer has given consent to installation.
For multi-unit dwellings, the changes would allow NBN Co to install facilities inside the building even if there is not yet a customer within the building, which had been a condition in the existing legislation. It would also enable facilities for subscribers in other nearby buildings to be installed, allowing customers to receive the service in other buildings or even devices such as traffic lights or ATMs. The maximum size for each facility would be 0.16-cubed metres, but NBN Co could install multiple facilities in the one location as the largest facility can, at a maximum, service 90 users.
NBN Co has previously experienced problems in Brunswick with installing fibre to multi-dwelling premises, having difficulty in obtaining consent from strata or body corporate entities. These changes could possibly address some of these issues.
If damage is done to the property during the installation of any of this equipment, the carriers have obligations under the Telecommunications Act.
"These changes, if adopted, would simplify the roll-out of the NBN and enable consumers to enjoy the benefits of faster broadband services sooner," Conroy said in a statement.
"Importantly, existing protections under the Telecommunications Act would continue to apply. For example, carriers will still be subject to legal obligations to notify people of intended activity, minimise damage and restore work sites."
Conroy has released the amendments to the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 1997 and the Telecommunications Regulations 2001 for public comment.