Proposed NBN laws to bypass state rules

Proposed NBN laws to bypass state rules

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday proposed amendments to existing legislation that would make it easier for the National Broadband Network Company to connect premises to the network.


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.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government AU, Telcos

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • IMO these laws are needed to stop obstructionist liberal state governments from sabotaging the NBN take up & giving Tony Abort more tainted fuel for which to run down this project.
    After all it is only the Liberal state governments that are presenting this problem.
  • fibretech why do you so openly display your childish and insulting barbs to you fellow Australians? I hope that your insult is not exceeded by your ignorance and you really do know that the name is spelled Abbott and not Abort.
    • Unfortunatly Mr Abbotts complete negativity to any idea or project the government has & his poor political point scoring leaves me with total distaste for the man & his lack of policy.
      However I can see your point, in future I will refer to him by his correct name.
      • Politicians have always been fair game, if anyone is offended by the sport then that is most certainly un-Australian. It doesn't bother me if you call him Mr Abort. It works well too.
        Hubert Cumberdale
        • Hubert do you not understand that your distasteful, ignorant and childish attitude reflects poorly on your upbringing. fibretech shows excellent manners and public decorum with his admission of poor taste.
          • Actually I'd say it reflects poorly on your upbringing. Did your parents really teach you to take exception to a casual comment about a politician? Seems to me you have really thin skin but I'd be more interested to know why you would take what fibretech said personally. Are you Tony Abort or Tony Aborts mother? No? Move on and stick to the topic then. No need to argue about these irrelevant things.
            Hubert Cumberdale
  • It seems that this will streamline the rollout in a number of ways - it means that the volume rollout, including fibre strands branching off into each home, can all be done expeditiously and without waiting around.

    And then, the connection stage will take place through the RSP - so you contact Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Internode or whoever to arrange for the NTU box to be connected and everything to be switched on for use. This requires very little effort and labour; a single technician could do it very quickly.
  • Sorry about the off-topic comments Suzanne but the devil made me do it.

    The Senator Conroy plan to expedite the NBN roll-out is understandable but where possible underground should be the way to go. Many new suburbs have no overhead cables and many existing areas do not want more overhead polution.
    • NBN Co's stated intention is that where possible, fibre will travel underground. This was one of the main purposes of the Telstra deal just signed - so NBN Co could get access to the whole underground infrastructure of pits and pipes for that purpose. The benefit is not just less visual impact, but real savings in rollout costs.

      However, because in some areas the underground infrastructure is insufficient, inadequate for the purpose, or for other reasons, Mike Quigley has said that they estimate around 25% of the rollout will be above-ground, on existing poles. This might be the case where the existing telephone copper is above ground anyway, or where the underground infrastructure is so old or hard to use that it just isn't worth it.
      • Taking into account that fibre is much thinner than the existing telephone cables the visual polution will be lower than it currently is
    • As an afterthought, I remembered something I noticed in the past few days.

      As part of the Telstra deal, Telstra has pledged to check and remediate the state of its pits and pipes to make sure they are ready and fit for use by NBN Co.

      Over the past few days, near my house in the inner west of Sydney, I have noticed two Telstra pits that have been in a cracked/caved in state for many years, which have now been replaced with brand new pits and lids. It may not be related, but they have been in a bad state for years, as I said, and it's only now that something has happened.

      Interesting. Well, it was to me!
  • These are the same reasons why HFC networks failed to gain traction in the late 1990's.
    If planning powers were changed then then the more than 3 millions homes passed would have decent cable internet.
    Those who are lucky to have the access to Telstra's or Optus HFC networks are enjoying 100Mb/s right now.
    • unfortunatly it seems to be the seats like North Sydney which have HFC. It would be nice if the rest of the population had the same access as Mr Turnbull does.
  • Those crazy Liberal and NewsLtd FUDsters are at it again.

    "OMG the NBNz are coming 2 uGlY up ur STREETZ!"

    Yeah. Except, in this case, no.

    No mention that the same powers were used to roll out HFC cable over a decade ago - and are still used to plonk great big mobile phone towers anywhere they please.

    Then, in the Australian, there have been "fresh warnings that irate residents could rip down overhead NBN cables in their streets". So people could be driven through sheer NBN-related rage to go all Tottenham High Street at the 21st century's unwelcome presence.

    Gosh, I wonder who's been imagining all that?