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Friday, 12 August 2011 14:54

Bid for greater NBN roll-out power too much to bear?

By

The NBN saga continues unfolding, with the latest exciting development seeing the Federal Government propose the alarming utilisation of 'Commonwealth regulation rather than State and Territory planning laws' in its quest to cable up the country.

Another day and another way for the NBN to make the headlines has arrived, with the alarming notification by Senator Stephen Conroy's department of 'Proposed regulatory changes to support [the] NBN rollout' making the news and giving many pause for thought.

According to the proposal, the Senator Conroy wants to change telecommunications laws and regulations to 'facilitate the timely and efficient rollout of the NBN', but wants to use Commonwealth regulation over State and Territory planning laws to do it.

It's normally not a good idea for the Federal Government to take too many powers away from the states and territories, lest the Feds get used to the idea of grabbing ever more rights for itself in an expansion of its power.

An example is in the US, where the US Federal Government has claimed ever more State land as belonging to the US Government, with reports that around 60% of the US State of Utah not longer belongs to the state but the Feds instead.

While the US and Australia are two different countries, the danger in giving Federal Government even more power is worrisome to many.

Although Senator Conroy wants to use the proposed new powers to 'connect premises', 'locate equipment in multi-unit buildings;' and 'deploy new broadband infrastructure in streets' to 'simplify the rollout of the NBN and enable consumers to enjoy the benefits of faster broadband services sooner', we are being asked to trust that the Federal Government will usurp this power and never abuse it.

We are soothingly assured by Senator Conroy that: '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.

"The government understands local community sensitivities regarding possible changes and this is why we're asking for people's feedback on the draft amendments. I strongly encourage interested parties to look at the proposed changes and provide their comments."

Senator Conroy also said that he 'emphasised that in all instances the government expects NBN Co will cause as little disturbance and inconvenience as practicable in rolling out its facilities and worksites will be restored within reasonable timeframes.'

Well, that is merely a promise'¦ not a guarantee. Unsurprisingly, Shadow Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, has fears.

He is quoted by The Australian stating that the proposals affected communities and their right to "to have a say in the preservation of their own environment and local amenity".

The Australian further quotes Mr Turnbull stating that: 'My fear is that as the NBN faces blowouts in both the cost and time taken to complete the project, the overwhelming urge will be to override the wishes and interests of local communities and string fibre overhead.'

 

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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