Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2857

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (9:01 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011 amends the Telecommunications Act 1997 to support the government’s policy that fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure should be installed in new developments.

When the government announced the NBN, it indicated it would also progress legislative changes to have fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure installed in new developments. The government considers it does not make sense to roll out a fibre network to up to 93 per cent of premises without preparing for the rollout of fibre in new developments.

The government has undertaken an extensive consultation process in developing this legislation, including releasing discussion papers and draft legislation and forming a broadly based stakeholder reference group.

In drafting this bill, the government has also considered the recommendations of the Senate Environment and Communications Committee report into the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2010.

Details of the government’s policy have been set out in policy statements on 20 June and 9 December 2010. Under the government’s policy, from 1 January 2011, NBN Co. is the fibre provider of last resort in new developments within its fibre footprint. As a result, while developers are free to use other telecommunications providers, NBN Co. will provide fibre where developers do not wish to use another provider. Developers are required to meet the cost of trenching and passive infrastructure. The provision of passive infrastructure by developers recognises the considerable investment NBN Co. will make in providing fibre cabling and associated equipment.

Telstra has a transitional role to provide services where NBN Co. does not yet have fibre.

The bill reflects the government’s decision that NBN Co. Ltd will be the fibre provider of last resort. The bill will add a new part 20A to the Telecommunications Act to support the rollout of the NBN. Proposed part 20A is intended to apply to all types of new developments, including broadacre estates, urban infill and urban renewal projects. The rules will generally apply to new developments in NBN Co’s long-term fibre footprint.

There are four key measures in proposed part 20A.

First, the bill enables the minister to specify new developments or classes of new developments in which fixed lines that are installed must be optical fibre lines. While NBN Co’s role as the fibre infrastructure provider of last resort means fibre will be provided in new developments, this provides a mechanism to ensure, if necessary, that new lines in future are fibre.

Second, the bill provides that when fixed-line facilities are being installed in a development, these facilities must be fibre-ready. This rule will apply to the person installing the facilities, and if that person is a developer, whether or not the developer is a constitutional corporation.

A fixed-line facility is an item of passive infrastructure such as underground ducting or ‘pit and pipe’ used in the deployment of fixed telecommunications lines to a premises. A ‘fibre-ready facility’ is a fixed-line facility that is designed, manufactured and installed so that it allows the ready deployment of optical fibre cabling, noting such cabling has special deployment requirements.

Third, the bill will have the effect of requiring constitutional corporations, particularly developers that are constitutional corporations, to install fibre-ready facilities on or in close proximity to their developments. Penalties will apply if a constitutional corporation sells or leases land or a building situated in a new development unless fibre-ready facilities have been installed. However, the sale or lease transaction will still be valid. The focus of this requirement on constitutional corporations reflects the application of the Australian government’s constitutional powers over corporations.

These fibre-ready requirements will not apply in new developments where other urban utilities are not being installed. The bill also provides for NBN Co. to provide a written statement advising that it will not be deploying fibre in an area, that is, the area is outside the long-term fibre footprint of the NBN. The effect of such a statement is that it will relieve a person such as a developer of the obligation to install fibre-ready facilities in that area.

To provide flexibility, the bill also provides for the minister to exempt specified projects, individual lots or units, or conduct from requirements under the bill.

The bill also exempts from these requirements developments where, before the bill comes into effect, contracts have been signed or work has commenced on the installation of fixed-line facilities or lines, or where civil works generally have been contracted or commenced.

Fourth, proposed part 20A provides for a regime for carriers to secure access to fixed-line facilities such as pit and pipe that are owned by non-carriers, to ensure fibre can be rolled out using these facilities. The regime is based on that applying to carrier facilities in part 5, schedule 1 of the Telecommunications Act. Access would be on terms that are commercially negotiated or, failing agreement, determined by an agreed arbitrator, or failing agreement on an arbitrator, by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The bill provides for a number of new definitions to support the operation of part 20A of the Telecommunications Act.

Part 20A does not intend to exclude or limit the operation of state and territory laws that are capable of operating concurrently with the proposed new part 20A. As such, the legislation can be complemented by changes to state, territory and local planning arrangements, which would further support the deployment of fibre-ready facilities or fibre.

The bill applies the civil penalties in the Telecommunications Act to breaches of obligations under the new part 20A.

In addition to inserting the new part 20A, the bill also amends part 21 of the Telecommunications Act, which relates to technical regulation. The amendments enable the Australian Communications and Media Authority to make technical standards for customer premises equipment and cabling for use with the NBN and other superfast telecommunications networks. The ACMA will be able to exercise these powers on its own initiative or if directed by the minister. The amendments also enable the minister to give the ACMA directions in relation to cabling provider rules.

The proposed amendments to the bill will commence at the start of the day after the day the bill receives royal assent, or 1 July 2011, whichever occurs later in time. While the government first flagged its intention to facilitate the deployment of optical fibre infrastructure in new developments in April 2009, this approach gives further advance notice and removes concerns about potential retrospective requirements.

It has been the government’s expectation since the 20 June 2010 announcement, however, that developers will have recognised the benefits of installing fibre-ready passive infrastructure to facilitate the rollout of fibre in their developments and will have proceeded on this basis.

The bill will help residents and businesses in new developments access the most up-to-date telecommunications services. It is a key complement to the government’s historic National Broadband Network. It will play an important role in helping us prepare Australian homes, workplaces, schools and other premises for the high-speed online digital world of today and the future.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.