Proposed legislation requiring the disclosure of
carriers' commercially sensitive information brings the
National Broadband Network one step closer
The Government's plan to start the rollout of its
proposed $8 billion National Broadband Network, a fibre to the
node ("FTTN") network, is gaining
momentum with the introduction of a new bill to compel carriers
to disclose commercial in confidence information. This
information would enable organisations to submit responses to
the Government's proposed Request for Proposal
("RFP") to build the Network.
An FTTN is a network that allows delivery of broadband
services by using optical fibre to replace the usual copper
local loop from a cabinet serving a neighbourhood of several
hundred customers. Customers then use existing cables to
connect the "last mile" from the optical fibre to
As the Network will be using existing telecommunications
infrastructure, much of which is owned by Telstra, any
proposals to build the Network would need to be based on
existing infrastructure information. Accordingly, the
Government has approached over twenty carriers requesting the
voluntarily provision of certain infrastructure information to
facilitate the design and cost of the proposed Network. While a
number of carriers have agreed to provide such information,
others have refused on the grounds that the information is
Accordingly, the Government has introduced the
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband
Network) Bill 2008 ("Bill"). The
Bill proposes to amend the Telecommunications Act 1997 by
introducing the following:
The making of a disallowable instrument specifying the
particular information to be provided by specified carriers
("protected information"), the
manner and the form in which the information is to be
provided, and the time within which that information is to be
Carriers will be given three business days to comment on
the draft disallowable instrument.
Compliance with the disallowable instrument would become
a condition of the carrier's licence (breach of a
condition of a carrier licence could result in a fine of up
to $10 million).
A disclosure scheme to ensure a carrier's
protected information will only be disclosed under certain
a complicated system of "entrusted officers"
to whom a carrier's protected information could be
the publication of a request for proposal
("RFP") in relation to the
the recipient notifying the Government of its intention
to respond to the RFP;
the recipient providing any information and meeting any
conditions specified by the Minister in a
the recipient complying with any requirements or
conditions set out in the RFP; and
the proposed amendments will only operate for 12 months,
to ensure that provision of protected information will not be
a continuing obligation.
Responses to the proposed RFP will be considered by a panel
of experts appointed by the Government in March this year,
which consists of seven members. It is anticipated that the
expert panel will be assisted by the Department of Broadband
Communications and the Digital Economy, as well as other
specialist advisers who will give specific support in relation
to technical, legal and other matters.
Although it was originally anticipated that the Network
tender would be awarded in June, it is now anticipated that the
rollout of the Network will commence by the end of 2008, with
some users being able to take advantage of the Network by the
end of the year with the Network being switched on, according
to the Minister, "street by street, suburb by suburb, town
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general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
be sought about your specific circumstances.
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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