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Australian government demands signoff on telco network designs

Attorney-general wants to be ultimate network admin - what could possibly go wrong?

Australia's attorney-general has dropped some new telecommunications legislation designed to drag carrier networks into the orbit of the nation's top legal officer.

The plans, announced last week, would give the government power to demand information about carriers' networks and order changes to networks, with a civil penalties regime for non-compliance.

The regime is similar to one already in place in New Zealand. The Kiwi legislation has been criticised as being too onerous: national education network REANNZ has stated the requirement that it notify the government of all changes to its network means it can't take part in international software-defined network (SDN) development work.

As the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 stands, there's a similar risk to Australian operators. It states that carriers and carriage service providers (including most ISPs) would need to:

  • Protect their networks from unauthorised access;
  • Notify security agencies of any changes to their networks or management systems that might impact security (the feature of the legislation most likely to impact SDN deployment); and
  • Provide information to the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department on request.

The legislation was dropped late Friday afternoon, leaving the industry with only boilerplate responses at this stage. Telstra says it's reviewing the exposure draft of the legislation with a view to taking part in the consultation, while the Communications Alliance says members will need to “digest the contents” of the legislation.

Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton noted that the legislation represents new red tape with associated compliance costs, and “a higher level of intrusion into the commercial operations of the industry”.

However, Stanton noted the government's indication that the laws won't be used against specific vendors.

Submissions on the exposure draft, available here, are due by the end of July.®


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