Government releases guidelines for use of website blocking laws

On 27 April 2016, the Government released draft guidelines on government agencies' use of section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. This section imposes an obligation on carriers and carriage service providers to give such help as is reasonably necessary for various purposes relating to law enforcement. Government agencies have used this section to disrupt access to certain online services, traditionally by blocking websites.

The whole-of-government guidelines are designed to clarify the nature and extent of this power, providing six 'good practice measures' for using section 313(3). These measures address:  

  • Obtaining authority from agency head (being a Senior Executive Service officer or equivalent);
  • Developing internal, published policies and procedures for disruption requests and reporting on these requests (including reporting the information to the ACMA);
  • Limiting disruptions to serious offences or national security threats;
  • Providing timely public information about the disruption requests;
  • Having procedures for complaints by affected parties and reviews of those complaints; and
  • Ensuring a high level of technical expertise so that the request is executed effectively and is as targeted as possible (includes consulting with ISPs).

The draft guidelines follow a June 2015 Report by the former House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, 'Balancing Freedom and Protection, Inquiry into the use of subsection 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 by government agencies to disrupt the operation of illegal online services.' The Report was largely triggered by an incident in 2013 where ASIC inadvertently disrupted over 250,000 sites when relying on section 313(3) to block access to fraud sites.

The Government is seeking submissions on the guidelines by 27 May 2016.

For the guidelines homepage, click here.   

Productivity Commission releases terms of reference for Universal Service Obligation Inquiry

On 29 April 2016, the Productivity Commission released terms of reference for its Inquiry into the telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The primary focus of the Inquiry is the extent to which Government policies may be required to support universal access to a minimum level of retail telecommunications services. This entails unpacking the nature of a universal service obligation, and whether the retail market for telecommunication services can satisfy this obligation without Government intervention.

The Commission is currently inviting submissions on the terms of reference, and will seek additional submissions once the Draft Inquiry is released. There is no date set yet for the release of the Draft Inquiry.

The Inquiry Report is expected to be handed to the Federal Government in April 2017.

For the media release, click here.   

Government launches new Cyber Security Strategy

On 21 April 2016, the Federal Government launched a $230 million Cyber Security Strategy (the Strategy), aimed at combatting the increasing number of online threats and assaults. The Strategy provides a four year program which draws on greater defence capabilities, private sector involvement, global coordination and public awareness to improve Australia's cyber safety.

The Strategy focuses on:  

  1. Building national cyber security partnership;
  2. Strengthening defences;
  3. Exercising global leadership;
  4. Driving growth and innovation; and
  5. Creating a cyber-smart nation.  

For the media release, click here.

For further details, click here to read our alert.    

ACCC releases final decision on regulated prices for transmission services

On 21 April 2016, the ACCC released its Final Access Determination (FAD) for regulated transmission services, known as Domestic Transmission Capacity Service (DTCS). The Final Report to the Public Inquiry to make a FAD for the DTCS follows a public inquiry the ACCC commenced on 23 May 2014 to determine the price and non-price terms and conditions for the DTCS.

The ACCC claims the 2016 DTCS pricing is "significantly lower" than the regulated prices set in the 2012 DTCS FAD. For example, under the 2016 FAD, average prices for short distance, low capacity services are expected to decline by 13% and 22% in metro and regional areas respectively. Further, average prices for long distance, high capacity services are expected to decline by 76% and 78% in metro and regional areas respectively.

The DTCS prices will apply from 21 April 2016 to 31 December 2019.

For the media release, click here.    

auDA introducing .au direct registrations

On 18 April 2016, domain administrator auDA announced it would introduce second level direct registrations. The announcement comes after the auDA Board accepted the recommendation of the 2015 Names Policy Panel  published in December 2015, that direct registrations should be introduced. 

Direct registration means the public will be able to register domain names using the .au domain name space, such as "yourname.au." The rationale behind the changes is that it will benefit registrars, resellers, registrants, ultimate users of the .au domain name system, and the .au brand. Namely, the change would allow for shorter, more memorable domain names (especially compared to the pre-existing "id.au" option), provide greater domain name choice for Australians, and strengthen the global competitiveness of the ".au brand."

Other countries have already allowed for second level direct registrations of their domain names, including New Zealand (.nz) and the United Kingdom (.uk). auDA will make more announcements during the year as the system begins to roll out.

For the media release, click here.   

ACCC remains concerned about Telstra's involvement in NBN rollout

The ACCC has again raised concerns about the competition implications arising from Telstra's work with the NBN. This follows the announcement of the NBN/Telstra Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HCF) Delivery Agreement (the Agreement) on 11 April 2016, where Telstra will help extend the NBN HCF cable network.

The ACCC is concerned Telstra will gain a competitive advantage  under the Agreement by gaining early exposure to NBN infrastructure and information before it reaches the market. Telstra and the NBN have submitted proposals to the ACCC addressing these concerns which are now under consideration.

For the media release, click here.