In June, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a major review into the structure and operations of telco and media regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and submissions from industry stakeholders were invited.
According to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, which represents all the carriers and mobile vendors, the tight regulatory environment imposed by the ACMA is holding back the industry.
“AMTA's experience is that the ACMA's consultative processes can inhibit timely decision-making and that the Authority's decision-making processes can lack transparency,” the body says in its submission.
“AMTA believes that a review of governance processes to ensure they are efficient, transparent and consistent would improve the overall effectiveness of the ACMA and its fundamental role to facilitate outcomes for industry and consumers.”
In a nutshell, what the AMTA wants is for the ACMA to quit regulating its members, lessen compliance costs and to concentrate on cracking down on unlicensed outsiders causing interference in the airwaves
In its submission AMTA recommends:
- the re-focusing of the ACMA's current regulatory functions and responsibilities with greater reliance on self-regulation and co-regulation;
- regular assessment of opportunities for deregulation;
- conscious consideration of how proposed processes for spectrum allocation, renewal and interference management will minimise the regulatory burden and compliance costs for both government and industry;
- providing the regulator with a greater range of options (including regulatory forbearance) to achieve compliance. In the case of interference management, the ACMA needs more effective legal options along with adequate resources to enforce compliance; and
- the regulator's approach to regulation needs to be clearly understood, transparent and applied consistently.
“Industry currently funds the activities of the ACMA via its carrier licence fees and radiocommunications spectrum access charges,” AMTA says in its submission.
“AMTA considers that there needs to be a greater certainty of funding and a transparent linkage between the collection of industry fees and the regulation of spectrum that is supported by these fees and charges.
“Also, if industry takes on some of the regulator's functions and responsibilities as part of a review of the approach to self- regulation, as suggested in the submission made by Communications Alliance, industry should receive the benefit of the savings achieved through such a change.”
Where regulation and strict enforcement is needed from the ACMA (or some other future regulator), according to AMTA, is in halting the activities of unlicensed operators. And AMTA suggests that enforcement powers could even be handed over to the industry rather than retained by a government authority such as the ACMA, which would result in significant cost savings.
“The ACMA needs to be properly resourced to deal quickly and effectively with interference issues that infringe on the property rights of spectrum licence holders. Industry has and continues to make significant investments in spectrum on the basis that spectrum property rights will be respected and protected,” the submission states.
“AMTA's mobile carrier members estimate that the management of interference creates costs for the mobile industry in the order of several million dollars per annum.
“These costs are being incurred by industry because the ACMA does not currently have sufficient resources to manage interference issues and has inadequate powers under the legislation to effectively enforce compliance. AMTA supports increasing the spectrum enforcement capability of a future regulator to manage the risk of interference, including that it is properly resourced for this task.
“If it is agreed that aspects of compliance and enforcement can be devolved to industry to improve efficiencies then industry should receive the full benefit of the savings achieved.”
The full submission can be downloaded here.