Metadata retention to cost AU$3.98 a year per customer

Australian attorney-general George Brandis says Budget will reveal gov contribution to data retention costs

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report provided to Australia's attorney general on the likely cost of metadata retention has suggested a median figure of AU$3.98 per subscriber, per year.

So said no less a personage than Australia's attorney-general George Brandis, in no less a forum than the Australian Senate.

Brandis' remarks can be found on page 86 of yesterdays Senate Hansard proof (PDF), in which he is recorded as saying:

“The question of cost is a matter of discussion, and has been for some months now a matter of discussion, between government and industry ... In relation to the ongoing costs, a PricewaterhouseCoopers review has estimated that, even if there were to be no government funding, the average cost over 10 years would equate to between $1.83 and $6.12 per customer per annum, with a median price of $3.98 per customer per annum.”

Brandis went on to say “That is not, it seems to me ... a vast cost for what this legislation seeks to do to preserve — not to extend; in fact, in important ways to limit—an important investigative capability.”

He later added these remarks:

"The government has indicated that it will make a substantial contribution to capital cost. I refer you to the estimate in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report as to the likely average cost per customer per annum. Those discussions have not been finalised. Ultimately, this is a matter that will be determined in the budget process."

Brandis' remarks were made during debate ahead of a second reading for the metadata retention bill. Amendments moved to, among other things, ensure that law enforcement agencies must secure a warrant and telcos must store data on-shore, were defeated.

+Comment $3.98 doesn't sound like a lot: smeared across a year's worth of bills it's 33 cents a month.

But Brandis didn't address the startup cost, a crucial element because creating systems and infrastructure to retain subscriber data won't be cheap. The attorney-general has also again danced around the level of government support for either the startup costs or operational costs. And let's not forget, the questionnaire in which telcos were asked to estimate costs was delivered on Christmas Eve, with a tight deadline and a very loose method for estimating costs.

Australian telco-land has plenty of reason to push back against this estimate, not least because Brandis hasn't released the PwC report, just mentioned it briefly in the Senate. ®

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