The incompetence of George Brandis and his award-winning explanation of metadata has been matched by the length of time it has taken to announce financial assistance for ISPs to comply with their new data retention obligations.
An astounding 530 days has elapsed since the passage of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015 and the announcement of the outcomes of the Data Retention Industry Grants Programme.
Such undue delay has left the sector beset with uncertainty and an understandable aversion, particularly by smaller operators, to invest in the systems required to meet their new compliance obligations. When the mandatory data retention regime came into effect on 13 October last year, Communications Alliance identified an alarmingly low state of compliance readiness with the new regime.
The Turnbull Government has divided up $128.4 million between service providers towards the implementation costs of compliance. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated the upfront capital costs for implementing the data retention scheme to be between $188.8 and $319 million.
In addition, questions remain about the ongoing operating costs that will be accrued by ISPs in the performance of their obligations and the cost recovery processes that will operate in practice. This is not explicitly set out in the legislation, leaving service providers to make assumptions about the procedures that will apply based on current interception and access arrangements.
Malcolm Turnbull promised the Parliament that the Government “…expects to make a substantial contribution to both the cost of implementation and the operation of this scheme.” With ISPs such as iiNet and consumer advocates such as the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) warning of the scheme’s operating costs being passed on to consumers, this aspect needs to be urgently clarified.
In light of these concerns, Labor supports calls by industry for sensible regulatory restraint to be exercised for service providers that have been impacted by the Government’s delay and may be unable to fully meet their compliance obligations by the April 2017 deadline, particularly smaller operators.
TUESDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2016