Monday, March 22, 2010

Australian Government Data Centre Strategy

The "Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010 - 2025: Coordinated. Efficient. Sustainable" was released by AGIMO today. The document is remarkably succinct and clearly written (7 pages PDF 266 Kbytes ). It follows much the same approach as already detailed in the Queensland Government Enterprise Architecture Data Centres Policy (December 2009).

Participation in the data centre strategy is mandatory for most federal government departments and optional for some agencies. In the first five years, the aim is to define standards, establish a panel for data centre facilities and services and assist early adopters. The interim data centre panel is expected to cease by late 2010. The minimum floor space for new centres leased will be 500 square metres, over 10 years (with five year extensions).

The government data centres strategy mentions three specialist research reports: Technology Trends by Gartner Group (August 2009), Government Demand Analysis by CPT Global ( November 2009) and Australian Market Survey by TPI (November 2009). Also ICT benchmarking data, from agencies is mentioned as being avialable. However, none of these appear to have yet been released by AGIMO (in accordance with government policy). It will be difficult to assess the soundness of the proposed strategy until the underlying work it is based on is released.

The strategy document was released in a hard to read PDF format, rather than as a true electronic document. As a result, the document is five times larger than it need be. If this applies to Commonwealth applications in general, then savings from revising applications would dwarf any savings from the data centre strategy.

The strategy estimates a saving of $35 million per annum in electricity costs, and a reduction in the carbon footprint of 13 per cent (40,000 tonnes per annum of CO2e) from using modern data centres. It also suggests further reductions by exploiting "free cooling" where the air temperature is below 16°C.

For details of the how and why of such green data centre strategies, see my book "Green Technology Strategies". Several government staff and data centre vendors have already undertaken the accompanying course at ANU and ACS to implement the strategy. The course will be more widely available in second semester 2010, via Open Universities Australia to students of Curtin University, Griffith University, Macquarie University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University and the University of South Australia.

Data Centre Strategy


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays a vital role in assisting the Australian Government to deliver its services to Australia and the world. The Australian Government is committed to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the ICT on which Government business relies.

As the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, I am committed to delivering the Recommendations of The Review of the Australian Government’s Use of ICT, (the ICT Review) undertaken by Sir Peter Gershon. Recommendation 5 of the ICT Review was to develop a whole-of-government approach to avoid $1 billion of future data centre costs.

The Australian Government has endorsed the Data Centre Strategy as the whole-ofgovernment approach to future data centre requirements. It contains initiatives and actions to achieve the recommendations of the ICT Review. For example, longer term leasing will provide surety for the data centre industry.

It also takes account of technology and market factors that affect how agencies use data centres. It has been informed by consultations with industry.

The measures in the Strategy will be very beneficial for longer term outcomes for the Australian community. A more efficient and effective use of data centre ICT will deliver better services and at lower costs than would otherwise have been the case.

Lindsay Tanner Minister for Finance and Deregulation


Federal Government agencies operating under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997(FMA) spend an estimated $4.3 billion per annum on Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Of that, around $850 million per annum is on data centres. FMA agencies use about 30,000 square metres of data centre space.

For the purposes of this Strategy, government data centre sites are defined as purpose built, permanent, shared enterprise facilities that can house the full range of ICT equipment currently used or that will be used by agencies. The Strategy is applicable to any space that provides electricity, cooling, fire suppression and/or security to data centre ICT such as servers, networks and data storage.

The Review of the Australian Government’s use of Information and Communication Technology, (the ICT Review) undertaken by Sir Peter Gershon recommended that the government develop a whole-of-government approach for future data centre requirements over the next 10 to 15 years in order to avoid a series of ad hoc investments which will, in total, cost significantly more than a coordinated approach. Sir Peter estimated that costs of $1 billion could be avoided by developing a data centre strategy for the next 15 years.

This Strategy is the proposed whole-of-government approach to future data centre requirements. It contains initiatives and actions to achieve the recommendations of the Review including the avoidance of $1 billion in costs.

Critical Need for the Strategy

The Government’s operations are dependent upon ICT. In turn, ICT is critically dependent upon the data centre in which it is housed. Agencies’ ICT and data holdings are growing steadily. The rising demand for ICT to be available at all times increases the need for reliable and efficient data centres.

Most existing data centres used by government will not be able meet this demand for increased capacity and reliability. Agencies are already planning to move their data centres. In a September 2009 survey, fourteen FMA agencies advised they were considering a move within two years. Another ten agencies are considering a move in less than five years. This is a significant issue for Government, as the first group spends over 50 per cent of the total ICT operating expenses. The second group spends another 10 per cent of the total ICT operating expenses. All support major government programs that deliver services to citizens and business.

There is a growing shortage of available data centre space in Australia. If the current piecemeal approach is not replaced, agencies could begin competing against one another in a seller’s market, forcing up costs. However, aggregating the agencies’ demand for data centre space will achieve a better price. This effect has been demonstrated in the interim data centre panel that was established in 2009 in order to facilitate agencies obtaining short-term data centre space.

Government spends about $170 million annually on electricity for its data centres, of which ICT uses only $70 million. The cooling for the ICT and other data centre support systems uses the remainder. Modern data centres are more efficient in their use of electricity. It is estimated that using modern data centres would avoid $35 million per annum in electricity costs alone.

Environmental sustainability matters are increasingly important. Government data centre operations currently generate around 300,000 tonnes of carbon annually. Modern data centre technology can reduce this carbon footprint by around 13 per cent or 40,000 tonnes per annum. Further reductions are possible by using data centres in the many locations in Australia that can exploit the free cooling available when the air temperature is below 16°C.

Development of the Strategy

The Strategy was developed using a process of consultation, research and analysis.

A cross-agency working group was formed December 2008. It received over 50 presentations from the ICT industry in March-April 2009. A cross-jurisdictional meeting was held in August 2009, with government attendees from all States and Territories except the ACT. Meetings were also conducted with the Australian Information Industry Association data centre working group and discussions were held with several overseas government data centre experts.

Three specialist research reports were commissioned:

  • A Technology Trends report was completed by Gartner Group in August 2009, based on a compilation of their existing research sources;
  • A Government Demand Analysis was provided by CPT Global in November 2009, based on CPT’s research and a survey to FMA agencies. CPT also developed a demand forecasting tool; and
  • An Australian Market Survey was completed by TPI in November 2009, based on a survey of industry suppliers and their internal resources.
Two sets of the ICT benchmarking data, provided by agencies, were used. The 2007/08 data set was available from May 2009, and the raw 2008/09 data became available in late October 2009.


The primary objective of the Strategy is to develop an ICT investment approach to avoid $1 billion in data centre costs over 10 to 15 years. In achieving this, there are several additional objectives in accordance with other Government priorities including improving sustainability and promoting innovation in government as well as the local ICT industry.


This Strategy affects all Commonwealth agencies. There are currently 103 agencies under the FMA Act, which must follow the approach (with a limited exception for national security activity) and 91 under the Commonwealth Authorities and Corporations Act 1997 (CAC), which may choose to adopt it.

The Strategy considers:

  • Data centre construction, location and lifecycle costs;
  • Current and future agency ICT data centre infrastructure, its management and operation;
  • Implications for contracts involving data centres, from leasing to full managed services;
  • Consolidation and standardisation facilitating cost avoidance in government data centre sites;
  • Data centre supply and demand; and
  • Governance, implementation, transition, risks, costs and benefits.

Vision and Aims of the Strategy


The vision for a whole-of-government approach to data centres is that the government’s ICT infrastructure and data centre facilities match the wide range of agency business needs in an optimal manner with regard to cost, energy use and operations.


There are three major aims of the strategy:
  • For agencies to adopt, as soon as is practicable, modern technologies and practices that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the data centre use;
  • For government data centre sites and services to be shared in ways that reduce the duplication and un-necessary cost of base infrastructure; and
  • For government data centre sites to optimally match the business needs and requirements of the agencies. Only those systems that have a genuine business need to operate on a 24/7 basis should be located in expensive, high-end data centres.

The Model

Data centre requirements will be planned, procured and managed on a whole-of-government basis. Data centre facilities and services will be available via a whole-of-government panel. The panel will be set up in accordance with the normal practices of coordinated procurement policy.

Participation in the whole-of-government approach is mandatory for FMA agencies, subject to the established opt-out process.1 CAC agencies will be able to choose to participate, once the approach is established.

FMA agencies will join the approach either by applying early or as their current data centre arrangements are nearing the first of a set of defined trigger points. These trigger points are lease expiry, outsourcing contract expiry, major asset replacement, building move, end of life of the data centre, or significant increase in data centre capacity.

Portfolios, groups of agencies and large agencies which have aggregated demand above a level of 500 square metres will use the panel arrangements to acquire government data centre sites facilities and services. Smaller agencies will participate in aggregated arrangements, coordinated by Finance, to enable them to achieve the required efficiency.

Data centre facilities and services will be acquired commercially using a whole-of-government process led by Finance. Data centre facilities and services will be sourced under the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines in accordance with the value for money principles. Data centre facilities and service providers will become members of the panel upon meeting financial, contractual and technical conditions.

ICT Infrastructure Policy

Standardisation of the data centre ICT equipment and services will extend the benefits of the coordinated procurement. Techniques, expertise and innovation will be able to be more easily shared among agencies sharing a data centre. For example, government can significantly improve on the utilisation levels achieved for ICT equipment. Benchmarking has shown that some agencies achieve up to 12 times more from their equipment than do others. Extending these techniques across government, where appropriate, will lead to considerably increased efficiency. The benefits are considerable, but agencies are often hampered by a lack of expertise when they work independently. The Strategy creates opportunities to share expertise and other resources.

Cost Avoidance Measures

The cost avoidance accrued over the life of the Strategy will principally consist of:

  • Increased efficiency in use of electricity;
  • Reduced data centre floor space and associated costs;
  • Increased efficiency of data centre ICT assets;
  • Improved matching of data centre ICT facilities to business need; and
  • Standardised ICT infrastructure architectures and earlier use of new technologies.


The implementation of the Strategy will use a phased approach. Agencies are constantly changing and evolving their information systems and underpinning technology. There are a number of trigger points such as asset refreshment cycles, end of outsourcing contract, end of life for data centre, or expanding data centre capacity, which provide opportunities for whole-of-government outcomes to be incorporated into agency planning and implementation cycles.

In addition, there are times when pressures or incentives to achieve common goals are present such as the current focus on sustainability. These are drivers for, and opportunities to introduce, changes in the data centre facilities or the data centre ICT.

The implementation of the Strategy takes advantage of these trigger points. Agencies will be required to include actions and outcomes in their individual strategic plans that are coordinated with, and conform to the endorsed whole-of-government approach.

In the first five years, the Government will:

  • Aggregate the whole-of-government data centre demand and establish a panel for supply of government data centre facilities and services;
  • Assist early adopters to move to shared resource solutions;
  • Define the standards to be used in data centre equipment and operations so that maximum efficiencies can be achieved; and
  • Work with the smaller 50 per cent of agencies to consolidate their requirements into common data centre facilities and ICT solutions where appropriate.
In the second five years, agencies will share solutions and technology to drive further cost avoidance. In the final five years, agencies will adopt new opportunities for cost avoidance that arise from changes in technology, processes or policy.

Approaches to Market

The Government will release the first approach to market in the third and fourth quarters of 2010 via AusTender. The first approach will seek to procure data centre services both inside and outside the Australian Capital Territory. The minimum level of floor space required will be 500 square metres with a lease length of 10 years, plus optional extensions up to five years.

A second approach, planned for release in the fourth quarter of 2010, will seek the services necessary to assist agencies in moving to new data centre facilities.

The requirement for the use of the interim data centre panel is expected to cease by late 2010. No new approaches under this panel arrangement are contemplated after March 2010.


From: Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010 - 2025: Coordinated. Efficient. Sustainable, Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), Department of Finance, Australian Government, 22 March 2010

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 05, 2010

Sustaining small ICT business in Canberra

I presented evidence on "Sustainable ICT Procurement" to the ACT Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee, 9:30 am yesterday, as part of an Inquiry into ACT Government Procurement.

The hearing started on time, with three MLAs and about five audience members. The ACT Government is more of a town council, that a regional government. The Committee Room 1 of the Legislative assembly was small, but well equipped. There are very sturdy looking native timber desks, with microphones built in (the hearings are recorded and a transcript prepared).

The hearing was chaired by Ms Caroline Le Couteur MLA (Greens). The ACT has a Labour minority government, with support of the Greens. Like Senate hearings I have attended, there was a colleguete atmosphere, without overt politics. As usual, as an "expert" I was treated very respectfully by the committee.

I made a brief opening summary of my submissions and then answered questions. There was considerable interest in the idea of having green standards for procurement and for working with the commonwealth. There was no interest in green education. There was also considerable interest in impediments to small business in the tender process.

I suggested that the federal government would most likely adopt US Energy Star version 4 for computer purchases. It was unlieklt that the EPEAT standard would be made mandatory, as so few products currently comply.

A series of questions I was not prepared for were about the need for professional indemnity insurance for consultants. I suggested that it would be useful if the level of insurance required could be capped. I explained that government contracts generally required me to have $10M insurance. I suggested this would be better capped at $1M and the Australian Computer Society was working on having this introduced first in NSW. However, on checking later, I found the figure for the ACS Limited Liability (NSW) Scheme is $1.5M and came into force in NSW on 1 January 2010. So it would seem sensible for the ACT to match this $1.5M.

As I was asked about insurance, I raised the issue of Worker's Compensation insurance. My company is required to have this insurance, even though I am the only employee. The paperwork is onerous, requiring a statutory declaration from myself every six months and a statement from my accountant, as to how much I was paid. It is necessary to wait for the accounts to be finalised and get three signatures on one piece of paper. The forms a routinely late as a result and the insurance company is obliged to threaten me each time that they will inform the ACT Government who will then prosecute me. I explained to the committee that the requirements where not as onerous in NSW. I suggested that these be relaxed for micro businesses and explained to the committee that otherwise I may move my business to NSW (many other ICT professionals may do likewise).

ps: I previously wrote to the ACT Government and opposition requesting the worker's compensation law be changed, but they declined to do so:
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2001 09:26:51 +1000
To: ACT Attorney-General stefaniak(a)
From: Tom Worthington
Subject: Request Change To Workers Compensation Act
Cc: Shadow ACT Attorney-General stanhope(a)

This is to request a change to the Workers' Compensation Act 1951 - SCHEDULE 3 paragraph 10 to remove the requirement for employers to provide a certificate from a registered auditor and a statutory declaration of wages paid. Three people are required to sign a paper form to verify the wages paid by an employer. This is an unnecessary burden, particularly on small bushiness, and precludes the use of electronic commence.

Paragraph 10 currently requires the Employer to supply the insurer with:
(a) a certificate from a registered auditor stating the total amount of wages paid to workers; and
(b) a statutory declaration setting out:
(i) the determined categories of workers employed by the employer; and
(ii) the total amount of wages paid ...
I suggest this be changed by:

1. Omitting sub paragraph (a), and
2. Replacing the words "a statutory declaration" with "an approved form".

This change would allow the Minister to approve a form which simply requires the employer to detail the wages paid. Electronic as well as paper forms could be approved. Electronic signatures would not be needed, as the transaction with the insurer would be sufficient to provide verification at least equal to the current system.

The employer could fill in a paper form or a web form on the insurer's web site. They would later be presented with those details in an invoice for payment. The invoice and payment could be electronic. Paying the invoice would be evidence that the employer received the invoice and considered the figures it was calculated from were correct.

ps: My small business consults to the Federal Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business on e-commerce and its implementation for business:

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sustainable Canberra Government

I will be giving evidence on "Sustainable ICT Procurement" to the ACT Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee, 9:30 am, 4 March 2010. This is in Committee Room 1 of the Legislative assembly, London Circuit, Canberra, as part of an Inquiry into ACT Government Procurement. The public are welcome to attend and I would appreciate some moral support.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Australian Whole of Government Computer Tender

The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Request for Tender for a "Whole of Government Desktop Hardware (Computing Equipment) Panel". This includes desktop and mobile computing equipment, monitors, installation and disposal. All agencies will be required to buy through the panel.

There is an extensive 235 page "Statement of Requirements" available to tenderers. This not only includes the usual desktop PCs and laptops, but also Thin Clients, Ultra Mobile PCs, Netbooks, Ruggedised Notebooks and Mobile Thin Clients.

Tenderers are required to describe environmental aspects of their Tender, but no minimum requirement is specified for EPEAT:
Environmental Assessment: [State whether this Deliverable is registered in the Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool (EPEAT) or equivalent environmental assessment tool in Australia or overseas and the level attained by the Deliverable (eg Energy Star 4, EPEAT Silver)] [Provide environmental specifications stating the normal range of operation for the device (including but not limited to, temperature, altitude, humidity, dust, noise output, and heat output ...

From: Request for Tender to establish a WHOLE OF GOVERNMENT DESKTOP HARDWARE PANEL, RFT FIN10/AGI001, Department of Finance and Deregulation, 1-Feb-2010
This contrasts with the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) Request for Tender for Provision of Desktop, LAN, Helpdesk and Midrange Services (RFT 0708-705, 7 August 2008), which required at least an EPEAT silver rating. This was possibly too much to ask of suppliers, but not asking for at least the minimum Bronze rating may be too little.

Green features required include: US ENERGY STAR 4.0, BIOS Support for Green and Plug and Play features and Support for Wake-on-LAN. There is no specific requirement for
recycling or environmentally sensitive disposal of surplus hardware.

Support for Linux is mentioned, along with Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Windows 7.

Table of Contents
1.1Structure of Statement of Requirements4
1.2Criteria Definitions6
1.3Structure of Requirements Statements6
1.4Integration of Deliverables7
1.5Occupational Health and Safety7
3.1Standard Desktop PC17
3.2Power Desktop PC31
3.4Thin Client59
4.1Ultra Mobile PC72
4.3Lightweight Notebook96
4.4Standard Notebook109
4.5Lightweight Ruggedised Notebook122
4.6Standard Ruggedised Notebook136
4.7Mobile Thin Client151
5.119 Inch Monitor164
5.220 Inch Monitor170
5.322 Inch Monitor176
5.423 Inch Monitor (If Available)182
5.524 Inch Monitor188
5.630 Inch Monitor193
5.736 Inch Monitor198
6.2Centralised Services213

From: Part F - Statement of Requirements, Whole of Government Desktop Hardware Panel, Request for Tender FIN10/AGI001, Department of Finance and Deregulation, 1-Feb-2010

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, November 06, 2009

Railway standardisation a lesson for the NBN

"The World's First Railway System: Enterprise Competition and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain" by Mark Casson, OUP, 2009 looks at how efficient the investment in railways in the the 19th century were. There are lessons in this for Australia's planning for the National Broadband Network.

The conclusion drawn by Casson is that there was duplication of railway infrastructure and some inefficient placement of capacity. He concludes that this was due to a failure of the political process, with MPs not having the courage to make decisions for the good of the national as a whole, unable to choose between competing local interests and so making suboptimal decisions. Casson argues that private enterprise with some government planning could have resulted in a more efficient railway system and that this was done in India. This work provides some insights for Australia, with Casson also commenting that Australia failed to learn from the UK's problems and introduced three different railway gauges, a lack of standardisation which is a problem 100 years later.

The National Broadband Network is similar to the model Casson suggests, with central government planning and private investment. I suggest that the Internet protocols are the equivalent of the standard gauge which was missing from Australian railway planning. With it we will be able to have a meshing of multiple private and public networks, seamlessly carrying data round Australia and around the world. Without it we will have a series of little branch lines, with packets of data having to be loaded and unloaded between different data standards, just as goods still have to be transferred between different gauge railway lines in Australia today.

Labels: , , , ,

Designing the National Broadband Network

The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) held a National Broadband Network Reference Model Forum in Sydney this morning (there will be another in Melbourne on 12 November 2009). Based on the morning's discussion, my view is that a simpler internet model be used in place of the Communications Alliance model. This will be technically simpler to implement and will also avoid many difficult regulatory issues with telephone and broadcast services. In essence the NBN will be "an internet", which will be part of "the Internet". The NBN can carry many different services using internet protocols, including services which emulate the plain old telephone service (POTS), cable TV and broadcast TV, without being limited to only providing those services or providers.

Paul Brooks, Lead Consultant, NBN Project of Communications Alliance gave a detailed overview of the Communications Alliance High Level Architecture Options for the NBN in detail. His view is that it is likely that the NBN will use a passive optical network for Fibre to The Home (FTTH). This will provide considerable bandwidth to the home, but it is not clear how far this will extend through the network.

While NBN will own and install the connections to the home, there is no architectural distinction between NBN and non-NBN back end networks. The Communications Alliance model operates at level 2 . It is likely that IPv6 will be used or services such as VoIP at the higher layers of the model. Issues to be resolved include how many points should other providers be able to connect at (options range from 5 to 500).

At the home termination, it is not clear how the consumer will connect. Options range from a socket to which any equipment can be connected to an NBN supplied set top box. One issue which I raised early on the the NBN process was the need for operations in disasters during mains power failure. This seems to have been taken up with discussion of who provides the backup batteries.

Stepping back from the details Paul Brooks pointed out a principle should be customer choice. Each service may be connected to different devices from different suppliers ad networks. The example given was a smart electricity meter provided by the energy company, which the householder has little control of but still has to have working over the NBN.

It occurs to me that in all this some points have been lost:

1. Its the Internet: The primary purpose for the NBN is to provide access to the Internet. It is likely the system be implemented using internet protocols. The simplest way to provide Internet access via an internet network is with internet protocols. Therefore the the NBN should be designed as an internet. Much of the Communications Alliance model discussion seems to be about old fashioned connection based network design which is not needed and not relevant for an internet.
2. Layers aren't real: While there s much discussion of Layer 1 and Layer 2, these are abstractions and so of little use for practical decision making. In the discussion it does not seem to be made clear even which multi-layer model is being discussed (the ISO OS
model has seven layers, whereas IP has only five).

Peter Hitchiner, Australian Computer Society – Telecommunications Society of
Australia, gave a more general overview as to what the NBN should do (similar to the ACS talk I gave to ATUG in Canberra). He pointed out that the nature of the NBN service is not clear, in particular is "layer 2" access the preferred industry approach. A major question is will IPTV services be treated equally (a major policy question for the Federal Government).

At this point the forum moved into a discussion to explore some of these issues. This proved very interesting and useful. On the access issue Paul Brooks mentioned that the home access box might have four ports (presumably Ethernet copper cable ports), plus possibly a telephone and a TV port. It seemed that he was envisioned each port would provide a distinct "service" from a separate "service provider". In the subsequent discussion it became clear that the model the Communications Alliance's proposing is to emulate a point to point service over the NBN, on top of an underlying IP network.

Stephen Wright, from Gibson Quai-AAS - Telecommunications Consultants (GQAAS) then talked about the network resilience required. Telstra provides about 99.90% reliability for telephony services (PSTN). Stephen suggested we should aim for 99.95% or higher for the NBN. My view is that it should be relatively simple and inexpensive to achieve this level of service for the NBN for telephony services. This assumes that the NBN is configured to provide different levels of reliability for different services, with emergency services having priority. As an example, the household is likely to want enough bandwidth to call an ambulance in an emergency, and will accept that this should take priority over being able to watch TV. With the NBN configured to provide enough bandwidth to provide TV most of the time, there should be enough capacity to handle lower bandwidth services, such as telephony almost all the time.

The Communications Alliance proposed model is not a good one, is not in the public interest and should not be adopted. Its complexity comes from trying to reproduce the restrictions of the old telecommunications system in order to support old business models. Instead I suggest accepting that the NBN will provide an Internet service. The model then becomes very much simpler, with an unlimited number of service providers able to provide services to the home over one Internet connection. Where a service provider needs a high level of security for their service, for example a telephone, smart meter or a TV set top box, they would need to ensure that the software or hardware they provide to the home has the needed security built in. There is then no need to worry about how many ports to provide or what types. Only one port is needed which can support all the services required.

This would be similar to the electrical sockets provided in the home. These are all worried in parallel and provide the same service. The householder can purchase their own devices to plug in. The householder can also purchase multiple adaptors to plug in. If the householder wants to plug in a refrigerator from a particular supplier, they do not need a special power point installed which only provides one brand of electricity.

The NBN will likely replace the current telephone, broadcast TV and cable TV services. I suggest replacements for these services be done in a way which does not limit the availability of new services. This would be a change in the previous government practice which has been to protect encumbent providers from competition from new services. As an example, the conversion to digital TV in Australia was designed so that the existing analog TV stations retained their oligopoly, even though the new digital technology di not require this.

There is a case for providing telephony and TV as part of the basic NBN service, but architecturally these can be simply services on top of the Internet. In this way the household will not be locked into a new monopoly unnecessarily. As an example, the householder would be able to pay a service provider to provide an ordinary telephone POTS type service from an Australian telecommunications provider. But the householder should be able to use the same NBN equipment to make free Internet calls and to sign up with several other telephone providers, including companies located anywhere in the world, if they wish.

Similarly, the house holder could use the NBN to watch Australian free to air TV and cable TV. However, the householder should be able to also access any other TV-like service available over the Internet from anywhere in the world. The fact that Foxtel might wish to provide a restricted pay TV service using NBN, should not stop other provision of TV like services for free by others.

The issues of telephony on the NBN are not technically complex, compared to the regulatory and public policy issues. TV type services over the NBN are slightly more complex technically, but are dwarfed by the complexity of the public policy issues. There is not sufficient time to work through all of the sectional interests involved in time to implement the NBN. With the current timetable, Australian will still not have transitioned completely from analogue to digital before it will be time to start replacing the digital TV broadcast service with the NBN.

I suggest the Australian Government take the opportunity to short circuit the process by setting some simple goals for the NBN in delivering services over an internet and then let the NBN company get on with the implementation. The NBN is not building a telephone network, nor a pay TV network, it is building a network which can be used for carrying such services.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Government web guide blog

The Australian Government Information Management Office have set up the "Government Web Publishing Guide Review Project Blog". As the name suggests, this is a blog for the project reviewing the government web publishing guidelines. Like many organisations, the Australian Government has struggled to work out how to use blogs. So far the blog is a little cold and impersonal. AGIMO could afford to lighten the tone a little. But at least they have not made the mistake of some politicians who have tried a young hip cool style which sound phoney. AGIMO's previous attempt at consultation on web guidelines was entertaining, but not very useful. AGIMO also asked about the use of PDF.

My notes on website design and e-document management for Australian National University students may be of interest. These use Australian Government examples and have been used for teaching public servants and staff of companies contracted to the government since 2000. This year was the last I will be giving conventional lectures for, having decided that flexible learning would be better.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deployable Civilian Capability Disaster Management Software

According to media reports, the Prime Minister announced the creation of an Office of the Deployable Civilian Capability (DCC) within AusAid, at at the East Asia Summit today. This will have a register of up to 500 civilians ready to travel to disaster zones in the region at short notice. The DCC was included in the Government's response to the Australia 2020 Summit and the 2009-10 budget. A small Deployable Civilian Capability Group (DCC) was established in AusAid.
Regional Security - Deployable Civilian Capacity

Establish a deployable public service that will be able to more rapidly and effectively deliver development assistance.

Agree. The Government has agreed to develop a policy framework to enable rapid deployment of civilian experts to assist in international disaster relief, stabilisation and post conflict reconstruction efforts. An inter-agency task force is being led by AusAID to Undertake this work. Once established, a national deployable civilian capacity will allow more rapid and early delivery of stabilisation and recovery assistance to countries that experience conflict or natural disaster. The program reflects many of the ideas discussed at 2020, and also at the Youth Summit, and will be sufficiently adaptable to allow Australia to tailor our response to a particular event or emergency. It will also improve Australia's integration into multilateral reconstruction and stabilisation operations.

From: "Responding to the Australia 2020 Summit", Australian Government, 22 April 2009
AusAID is leading a whole-of-government taskforce to develop a Deployable Civilian Capacity, an idea raised at the Australia 2020 Summit. Once established, a national deployable civilian capacity will enable rapid deployment of civilian experts to provide stabilisation and recovery assistance to countries experiencing conflict, post-conflict situations or natural disaster. In cooperation with other government agencies, AusAID will pre‑identify, train, deploy rapidly and sustain civilian technical expertise. The program will build on Australia's experience of deploying civilian experts in post‑conflict situations, for example in East Timor and Solomon Islands, and improve Australia's integration into multilateral reconstruction and stabilisation operations.

From: Australia's International Development Assistance Program: A Good International Citizen, Budget 2009-10, Australian Government
As part of this I suggest the expansion of the Sahana open source disaster management system and online training.

Sahana was developed for the Boxing Day Tsunami and has been used in several subsequent disasters in Asia. A demonstration of Sahana available online.

Recently two New Zealand councils of issued a request for Expression of Interest for a Information and Communications System for a joint Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for emergency and disaster coordination. In response I suggested that a deployable system housed in a an airline carry-on size wheeled bag. Also I suggest that the Sahana system could be expanded from its disaster management role to cover coordination as well. The Sahana community saw this of interest, but not their core function. However, if the Australian Government provided some modest funding, this could be done.

The Deployable Civilian Capability Group could be equipped with low cost portable computer equipment allowing much more efficient coordinated relief operations. This would also take a load off the military communicators who are usually relied on during disaster operations, but are heavily committed elsewhere.

In addition I suggest using Mentored and Collaborative e-Learning to help train the group. The group members will rarely meet and have little time for face to face training. Using training in online groups will allow an esprit de corps to form, as well as make maximum use of limited resources.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

High Level Architecture Options for the NBN

The Communicators Alliance have released High Level Architecture Options for the NBN (October 2009). This is a draft paper for comment by 6 November 2009, as part of a National Broadband Network Reference Architecture. This is a very clearly and concisely written 26 page document. Unfortunately it has been formatted as 552 kbytes of PDF, making it hard to distribute and read.
3.1 Key Network Domains and Functions 4
3.2 Wholesale Point of Interconnect and Service Boundary Point Scenarios8
3.3 Roles and Relationships between Different Industry Players 10
3.4 Relationship between CPE and Retail/Wholesale providers 12
4.1 Option 1: Layer 2 Ethernet Access 14
4.2 Option 2: Wireless/Satellite Layer 3 IP Access 18
5.1 Sustainability 22
5.2 Robustness 22
5.3 Security 22
5.4 IPv6 22
5.5 Future Proofness 22


This document defines the following:
  • The end-to-end broadband network architecture framework, including domains and functions required to deliver a wide range of network services and application/content services to end users.
  • A range of potential passive and active NBN wholesale interconnect scenarios. This will be a key input to other Communications Alliance NBN work stream activities, in particular the wholesale services stream. In developing these options there has been some regard to overseas experience where different FTTH wholesale open access models are being adopted by different countries.
  • Terminology and definitions for different industry players taking into account a range of possible roles providing Wholesale and Retail services.
  • The relationship between the CPE (such as ONT and RG) and Retail and Wholesale Service Providers. ...

The next-generation broadband network will enable a wide range of network services and application/content services to be delivered to end users via FTTP, Wireless and Satellite access. Figure 1 shows the end-to-end architecture vision which identifies the different functional and service domains applicable to the provision of Next Generation Broadband Services. The retail network service providers and application/content service providers are those that provide services to end users and have a direct customer relationship with the end users. Wholesale service providers do not have this relationship. ...

The primary form of access to the NBN will be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). This section describes the end-to-end network architecture for FTTP access.
Figure 2 shows the end-to-end broadband network reference architecture, segregated into a number of functional domains. This architecture is based on the reference architecture defined by the Broadband Forum1 but has been adapted for the specific purposes of this exercise. In particular, the terminology used in this document is not fully aligned with that used by the Broadband Forum. It should be noted that the terminology used in this document will be reviewed and may change in future releases. ...

From: High Level Architecture Options for the NBN, Communicators Alliance, October 2009

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Birth of the National Broadband Network

Greetings from Canberra, where Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts is talking on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" to the ACS. I have been at the same venue since 12:30pm on at the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" presenting on the "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package".

Reg is recounting about how the government made a "courageous decision" to implement the NBN with FTTP, rather than FTTN. The Broadband Panel of Experts went beyond its brief and rather than selecting a broadband provider, recommended a new network strategy. The previous government proposed a wireless strategy for regional areas, which was rejected by the new government.

Tasmania is taking a "Tasmanian solution" with green and brown field implementation. Tasmania has the lowest current Internet penetration, lowest income and oldest population.

Reg commented that the government is not doing anything to address broadband to the 10% of the population in beyond where the fibre network will reach. This applies not just to regional areas, but to some areas of capital cites, such as Adelaide (the government is funding WiMax).

Reg joked that to solve the problem of pair gain on Telstra lines consumers should order an ISDN line. Telstra will then wire a direct, good quality copper cable to your premises. Then cancel ISDN and use the line for ADSL.

The report of the expert panel is still confidential but an "Extract from the Evaluation Report for the Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia" was published. Reg commented that it took the media some days to notice this and its implications (I have appended the text of the report to make it easier to find).

Reg recommended the Communications Alliance NBN Discussion Paper (14 May 2009). He commented that due to AUSSAT, satellite service sin Australia have a poor reputation. However, new technology used in other countries provide a flexible and popular service. He claimed that problems of latency with satellites could be overcome. He argued that satellite should be part of the NBN.

Reg mentioned the role of wireless, with WiMax, HSPDA (3G). Possible LTE, using old analogue TV spectrum (700MHz) for fixed wireless. This would use 2.6GHz for short range and 700MHz for long range. Reg argued that this could be a useful separate competitive alternative to the NBN and wireless should not be part of the NBN.

Reg argues that the NBN should be structures as a network, not links. There should be 25 equivalent POIs, with a cross-subsidy to provide the same network charges nation wide.

Reg mentioned the AFACT v iiNet court case currently under way. He commented that while media content owners are complaining about their content on the Internet, other arms of the same companies are keen to distribute content online.
    1. Background

On 7 December 2007, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, (the Minister) announced that the Commonwealth Government (Commonwealth) was committed to building a national high-speed broadband fibre-to-the-node network, and that it would run an open and transparent process to determine who would build the network.

On 11 March 2008, the Minister announced the appointment of a Panel of Experts to assess the Proposals received in response to the Request for Proposals (RFP), to be released at a later date. The Panel of Experts comprises:

    • Ms Patricia Scott (Chair)
    • Mr John Wylie AM
    • Mr Tony Shaw PSM
    • Dr Ken Henry AC
    • Mr Tony Mitchell
    • Professor Reg Coutts
    • Professor Rod Tucker

On 11 April 2008, the Commonwealth released an RFP seeking Proposals to roll-out and operate a National Broadband Network (NBN) in a single stage process. To facilitate the roll out, the Commonwealth indicated it would offer up to $4.7b to the successful Proponent(s), and consider making necessary regulatory and legislative changes.

On 26 November 2008, the Commonwealth received Proposals from six pre-qualified Proponents:

    • Acacia Australia Pty Ltd
    • Axia Netmedia Corporation
    • Optus Network Investments Pty Ltd
    • the Crown in the Right of Tasmania
    • Telstra Corporation Ltd
    • TransACT Capital Communications Pty Ltd

On 13 December 2008, the Panel met and considered the future of the Telstra Proposal in the NBN RFP process. The Panel considered legal and probity advice and Telstra's response to the notification of the Panel's preliminary view on the matter and concluded that Telstra had failed to submit a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Plan as required under the RFP.

On this basis, the Panel and the Commonwealth concluded that the Telstra Proposal had not met the conditions of participation for the RFP and Telstra's Proposal was excluded from further consideration in the RFP process.

    1. Observations
  1. Since the Panel was appointed in March 2008, and the RFP issued in April 2008, the environment surrounding the process to select a Proponent to roll out and operate a NBN for Australia has changed dramatically.
  2. There has been a once-in-75-year deterioration in capital markets that has severely restricted access to debt and equity funding. As a result all national proponents have either found it very difficult to raise the capital necessary to fund an NBN roll-out without recourse to substantial support from the Commonwealth or have withheld going to the market until they have certainty that their Proposal is acceptable to the Commonwealth.
  3. All Proposals were to some extent underdeveloped. No Proposal, for example, provided a fully developed project plan. None of the national Proposals was sufficiently well developed to present a value-for-money outcome.
  4. While no Proposal submitted a business case that supports the roll-out in five years of an NBN to 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses with a Government contribution of $4.7b, each Proposal contained attractive elements that, taken together, could form the basis from which a desirable outcome might be achieved.
  5. The Proposals received through the RFP process, the public submissions received on regulatory issues and the report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have been highly instructive. They provide a good evidence base for the Government as it moves forward.
  6. The Proposals confirm there are multiple approaches to delivering high-speed broadband and that, with the right technology mix and incentives to create sound business cases being developed, the goal of providing high-speed broadband services to 98 per cent of homes and businesses can be reached.
  7. In particular, the Proposals have demonstrated that the most appropriate, cost effective and efficient way to provide high-speed broadband services to the most remote 10 per cent of Australian homes and businesses is likely to be a combination of next generation wireless technology (supported by appropriate spectrum) and third generation satellites.
  8. The Proposals have also demonstrated that rolling out a single fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network is:
      • unlikely to provide an efficient upgrade path to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), because of the high costs of equipment associated with rolling out a FTTN network that would not be required for a FTTP network (i.e. FTTN is not a pre-requisite for the provision of FTTP); and
      • likely to require exclusive or near-exclusive access to Telstra's existing copper sub-loop customer access network (CAN), the so called 'last mile', thereby confirming that strong equivalence of access arrangements would be essential. As well, providing such access to a party other than Telstra runs a risk of liability to pay compensation to Telstra. The Proposals have this risk remaining with the Commonwealth but they have not addressed the potential cost to the Commonwealth of any such compensation. In any event, the Panel considers that no Proponent could accept the cost risk and continue to have a viable business case.
  9. The Panel's analysis of the Proposals has highlighted the importance of competition and not just technology to drive improvements in services; the need to improve competition in backhaul supply, particularly in regional areas; the desirability for a wholesale-only provider of any bottleneck infrastructure; and the desirability of improved regulation of the telecommunications industry to provide investor certainty and speed of outcomes. The Panel was not attracted to what it saw in some cases as proposals for excessive overbuild protections. Focusing on using next-generation technology solutions may reduce the need for such protection.
  10. The Panel can see a way forward to achieve the outcomes sought by the Government and has provided that advice in confidence to the Government because of the commercial sensitivities arising.

From: Extract from the Evaluation Report for the Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy,20 January 2009

Labels: , , , , ,

Ethernet in the First Mile

The Primus presentation to the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" was a little jargon filled, with Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) and "self healing" networks. There is good competition in the core and distribution networks (fibre connections between city areas). 1 Gbps links are now common for large corporate users. Primus has built its own exchanges, separate from Telstra. In some cases these exchanges are in customer premises.

There is poor competition for the access network to residential consumers. Old copper cable is limiting access. The future (according to Primus) is Passive Optical Network (PON). This is suitable for both residential and business use.

One driver for bandwidth is tele-presence with very high definition video. This is currently for corporates but could extend into the home.

Labels: , ,

ACCC View of Australian 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package

The ACCC representative was not available for the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package". ACCC believes the best way to deliver broadband with a competitive market. The ACCC view is that competition in the fixed line voice services has not fully developed (particularly as compared to mobile services). In the case of mobile services the competitors have more control over delivery as they have their won networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone). In the case of fixed line, there is vertical integration in access and service, plus some horizontal integration with HFC ad subscription services. The ACCC sees these structural issues as hindering competition. Competition is "patchy" even in urban areas. Fixed line infrastructure includes DSLAM (540 exchanges), HFC networks (not expanding, limited access but improving service) and customer access network. As of June 2009, Tesltra was providing 70% of DSL services.

The ACCC's view is that the regulatory framework depends on market power and structural arrangements. The incumbent (Tesltra) is highly vertically and horizontally integrated. Current measures allow extent of integration to be reported but not change it. Reforms will address integration. Structural separation is required for vertical separation. Requiring Tesltra to divest HFC network might allow a new competitor. Divesting Foxtel could increase competition in media markets.

There are details of the ACCC's views in their "Submission to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy". The ACCC submission is nothing if not comprehensive, being 375 pages long (1.75 Mbytes). Unfortunately as with many such government reports it is poorly formatted and very hard to read.

Labels: , , ,

Australian 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package

Greeting from NICTA in Canberra, where the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) is hosting "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package". I talked on "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package" for the ACS. Holly Raiche, Executive Director of the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) is currently speaking about the legislation.

One issue I can see coming up is the definition of a "fixed line": is a wireless service which sits in the home providing phone, Internet and, perhaps TV, a "fined line"? Holly is also asking what the Universal Service Obligation should be in a broadband environment. The draft legislation allows for the Standard Telephone Service (STS) to be a mobile (wireless) or VoIP service, as an alternative to a fixed line. This raises some safety issues as to if a sufficiently reliable service will be provided. The legislation will place obligations on the wholesale carriers to provide service, so the retailers don't just get the blame for all the problems.

The forum will also be at other cities:

This will be followed by Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts with a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at the same venue, 5:30PM.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package

I will be talking on "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package" at the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra, 14 October 2009.

This will be followed by Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts with a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at the same venue, 5:30PM.

Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package

ACS Telecommunication Society of Australia (ACS-TSA)

For the ATUG Focus Forum, Canberra, 14 October 2009

NBN Initiative

  • Platform and enabler for participation in the digital economy
  • Visionary: addressing Australia's inadequate investment in BB infrastructure
  • Also addresses inadequate regulation of market power in wholesale and retail markets
  • But what the NBN will deliver is not clear.

The high level issues

  • What will be the NBN's wholesale service?
  • What will be its guaranteed QoS?
  • NBN and national wholesale pricing?
  • Will the NBN serve IPTV providers with network neutrality?
  • How can transparency be achieved in the NBN's business practices?
  • Should an Industry Ombudsman be created for NBN retail performance issues?
  • What transitional arrangements and competitive protections?
  • Will competitors to the NBN really be permitted or even safeguarded?

What will be the NBN's wholesale service?

At least three components:

  • Implementation service
  • Transmission capability: point-to-point with guaranteed QoS re performance: bandwidth, outages etc
  • Maintenance service

What will be the guaranteed QoS?

Essential for the NBN to offer minimum guaranteed service levels for all service aspects within its (implementation, transmission, maintenance) to provide a basis on which retail service providers can offer QoS to their end customers, especially business customers.

  • Can the NBN offer multiple SLAs? Can it actually deliver a range of SLAs?
  • The realities of service bottlenecks in international links can be allowed for in service agreements

NBN and national wholesale pricing?

  • Costs vary with geography & density
    • Sparse population - high 'backhaul' costs
    • Low population densities
  • Elements of the solution
    • Multiple platforms : FTTP for 90%, advanced wireless and satellite for 10%
    • Multiple POIs
    • Backhaul 'network'
    • Cross subsidy within NBN

Will the NBN offer network neutrality?

Network Neutrality (NN): no differentiation by the NBN in terms of price or performance by content source:

  • Essential for competition
  • Allows competition in IPTV services
  • Requires a QoS supporting IPTV

Transparency in the NBN business?

NBN Co needs a transparent policy decision process:

  • Publishing all Board decisions after each meeting (ICANN model)
  • Industry Ombudsman

Is a new industry Ombudsman needed?

Transitional arrangements and protections

  • What transitional arrangements and competitive protections will apply for service providers using current networks?

Other Perspectives

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Replace PDF with Accessible Web Pages

This is for a submission to the AGIMO PDF Accessibility Review. As the Australian Human Rights Commission points out in their DDA Advisory Notes, organisations who distribute content only in PDF format risk complaints for not providing information in an accessible format. While it is theoretically possible to make more accessible PDF files, I suggest that the Australian Government take the simpler course of providing information in alternative formats, specifically as accessible web pages. This would be simpler to do and have benefits for readers generally, not just those requiring to use assistive technology.

Since 2000, when I was asked to give evidence to the Human Rights Commission on the Sydney Olympics Case, I have been looking at how to easily produce accessible electronic documents. Many tools and techniques have been tried by my ANU web design and e-document students since then, including accessible PDF. In the last few years an approach has emerged using structured web design. This is now to the point where it can be used to replace most uses of PDF.

Using now available web standards and tools, it is feasible to create one version of a document which can be read on an ordinary web browser, can be used with assistive technology, can be printed in a similar format to a PDF document and also work with smart phones, netbooks and e-book readers.

The PDF format was created for producing electronic facsimiles of paper documents. This provided a useful transition, from paper to electronic documents. That transition is can now be completed.

Most government material is read online, not on paper. The government should therefore switch its emphasis from creating high quality paper documents, to creating high quality electronic documents. The simplest and most cost effective way to do this is to create government documents as web pages, while ensuring they can be printed in an acceptable format.

As an interim step, I suggest agencies be advised it is acceptable to have a PDF version of a document (which need not be accessible) in addition to the accessible web version. However, the web version should be offered before the PDF (as readers will usually pick the first plausible option on a web page, without reading further). Currently readers waste time and network resources are being wasted with people selecting the full PDF version of multi-megabyte government reports, when all they wanted was an executive summary.

To create good electronic documents will require some training of government staff in e-literacy. Currently staff think in terms of what the document will look like when printed, and how someone will read it on paper. They need to be educated to think about how the document will look on various electronic devices and how people will access this information.

Apart from providing better information to the public, well structured web documents will reduce the server and network resources needed by the government. This will reduce the cost of providing the service and also greenhouse gas emissions from the lower electricity use of the equipment (3).

See also:
  1. The World Wide Web: For Networked Information Systems, notes on for The Australian National University course "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410), Tom Worthington, 2009.
  2. Metadata and Electronic Data Management, notes for "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" (COMP3410) at the Australian National University, Tom Worthington, 2009.
  3. Green ICT Strategies (COMP7310), ANU Masters E-learning course, Tom Worthington, 2009

Labels: , , , , ,

New Ways of Working with the NBN

Professor Reg CouttsProfessor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts will give a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at NICTA in Canberra, 5:30PM, 14 October 2009. This follows the "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA the same day, where I will be speaking. The National Broadband Network has implications for the telecommunications and broadcasting industry and changes will be needed if the community is to get an economic and social return on this large investment.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Telecommunications Regulatory Reform

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, announced reforms to Australian telecommunications law on 16 September 2009. I will be speaking about these at an ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra on 14 October. The reforms are in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009.

For such an important reform the amount of legislation is relatively small (144 pages). However, extensive detailed changes are proposed to complex telecommunication legislation, and this is likely to keep lawyers and court busy for decades. There are 98 pages of Explanatory Memorandum and there are likely to be hundreds of pages of regulations.

As an example of the difficulties, the legislation defines a "VOIP Service" in terms of "the internet protocol" without defining what "the internet protocol" is. This definition could cover all telephone calls, or none, depending on how a court interprets and could depend on something as small as if "internet" is written with a lower case or upper case "I". The legislation could be ruled invalid, as there is no such thing as "the internet protocol", it is "the Internet protocol" or "an internet protocol". A particular VoIP service may not use the same protocol as other voice services, or all phone calls might be considered VoIP, as they will all transit a network using IP at some point.

The package is mostly about forcing a functional separation of Telstra, between its wholesale and retail parts. There is a detailed definition of what such a separation requires, in the draft legislation, defining terms such as functional, functional separation principles, functional separation requirements determination, regulated service, retail business unit, supply, and a wholesale/network business unit. Essentially the legislation will give the Minister the power to say how this is done, with the ACCC and Telstra to agree the details and the courts deciding in the absence of an agreement.

What the reforms do not seem to address are wider issues of the convergence of telecommunications with broadcasting and the effects on telephony, radio and TV broadcasting industries and pay TV. What will therefore be needed is another and more extensive set of reforms for broadcasting reform to match the telecommunications reform.

The main legislation (not counting explanatory memoranda) is 144 pages (300 kbytes of PDF). There are additional document and will also need to extensive regulations, to cover the details.

Some of the Acts changed include the Radiocommunications Act 1992, Telecommunications Act 1997, Trade Practices Act 1974, Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. It introduces terms, such as:

hybrid fibre-coaxial network means a telecommunications network:

(a) that is for use for the transmission of any broadcasting service; and

(b) that is also capable of being used to supply an internet carriage service; and

(c) the line component of which consists of optical fibre to connecting nodes, supplemented by coaxial cable connections from the nodes to the premises of end-users. ...

internet carriage service means a carriage service that enables end-users to access the internet. ...

(14) In this section:

fixed-line carriage service means a carriage service that is supplied using a line to premises occupied or used by an end-user. ...

577H Designated part of the spectrum

(1) For the purposes of this Act, each of the following parts of the spectrum is a designated part of the spectrum:

(a) frequencies higher than 520 MHz, up to and including 820 MHz;

(b) frequencies higher than 2.5 GHz, up to and including 2.69 GHz. ...

telecommunications market has the same meaning as in Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 ...

For the purposes of this Part, a declared network service is a service specified in a legislative instrument made by the Minister for the purposes of this clause. ...

The functional separation principles are as follows:

(a) the principle that there should be equivalence in relation to the supply by Telstra of regulated services to:

(i) Telstra's wholesale customers; and

(ii) Telstra's retail business units; ...

payphone carriage service means a carriage service supplied by means of a payphone. ...

VOIP service means a carriage service that enables a voice call to originate on customer equipment by means of the internet protocol. ...


Explanatory Memorandum

Second Reading Speech

From the explanatory memoranda:


The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 (the Bill) introduces a package of legislative reforms aimed at enhancing competitive outcomes in the Australian telecommunications industry and strengthening consumer safeguards.

The package has three primary parts: addressing Telstra’s vertical and horizontal integration; streamlining the access and anti-competitive conduct regimes; and strengthening consumer safeguard measures such as the Universal Service Obligation (USO), the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) and priority assistance.

The Bill contains amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Tel Act), Parts XIB and XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA), the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Radcom Act) and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (the Consumer Protection Act). The Bill also makes consequential amendments to the National Transmission Network Sale Act 1998 (NTN Sale Act).

Addressing the current structure of the telecommunications sector

The Australian telecommunications market is characterised by a very strong and highly integrated incumbent, Telstra. Telstra is one of the most integrated telecommunications companies in the world owning the only copper network connecting almost every house, the largest cable and mobile networks, and a 50 per cent stake in Foxtel, Australia’s largest subscription television provider.

Partly because of this integration, it has been able to maintain a dominant position in virtually all aspects of the market, despite more than 10 years of open competition. It is the Government’s view that Telstra’s high level of integration has hindered the development of effective competition in the sector.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will deliver a wholesale-only, open access telecommunications market structure, transforming the competitive dynamics in the Australian telecommunications industry.

However, during the rollout of the NBN, the existing regulatory regime will remain important for delivering competitive outcomes in the interests of Australian consumers, businesses and the economy more broadly.

Consistent with the market structure that will be delivered through the NBN, Part 1 of Schedule 1 of this Bill inserts a new Part 33 in the Tel Act which provides provisions for Telstra to voluntarily structurally separate.

Structural separation may, but does not need to, involve the creation of a new company by Telstra and the transfer of its fixed-line assets to that new company. Alternatively it may involve Telstra progressively migrating its fixed-line traffic to the NBN over an agreed period of time and under set regulatory arrangements, and sell or cease to use its fixed-line assets on an agreed basis. This approach will ultimately lead to a national outcome where there is a wholesale-only network not controlled by any retail company—in other words, full structural separation in time. Such a negotiated outcome would be consistent with the wholesale-only, open access market structure to be delivered through the National Broadband Network.

However, if Telstra does not voluntarily implement structural separation, this Bill will require the functional separation of Telstra. Functional separation is a regulatory tool that has been used successfully in other countries such as the UK and New Zealand and is being considered by the European Commission, to address the underlying incentives that fixed-line incumbents have to favour their own retail businesses.

This Bill amends the Tel Act to require that Telstra must:

  • conduct its network operations and wholesale functions at arm’s length from the rest of Telstra;

  • provide the same information and access to regulated services on equivalent price and non-price terms to its retail business and non-Telstra wholesale customers; and

  • put in place and maintain strong internal governance structures that provide transparency for the regulator and access seekers that equivalence arrangements are effective.

These provisions are contained in a new Part 9 of Schedule 1 to the Tel Act, to be inserted by Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill.

As part of the functional separation framework, Telstra will be required to establish and maintain a single wholesale/network unit, separate from its retail business units, and a committee to be known as the Oversight and Equivalence Board.

Telstra will be required to operate its network and wholesale functions at arm’s-length from the rest of Telstra. The Oversight and Equivalence Board will report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Telstra’s board of directors about Telstra’s compliance with its functional separation obligations.

Telstra’s level of horizontal integration across the different delivery platforms—copper, cable and mobile—is in contrast to many countries where there are restrictions on incumbents owning both cable and traditional fixed-line telephone networks. Unlike Australia, in a range of countries the fixed-line incumbent does not also own the largest mobile carrier as measured by market share. Telstra’s horizontal integration has significantly contributed to Telstra’s ongoing dominance in the Australian telecommunications market.

The Government intends to correct this unique market structure, by introducing a set of measures designed to promote competition across the various telecommunications platforms while providing Telstra with the flexibility to choose its future path.

The proposed amendments to the Radcom Act and the new Part 10 of Schedule 1 to the Tel Act (in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill) will prevent Telstra from acquiring specified bands of spectrum, which could be used for advanced wireless broadband services unless it structurally separates, divests its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network and its interests in Foxtel. The legislation provides scope for the Minister to remove the requirements around the cable network and Foxtel if he is satisfied that Telstra’s structural separation undertaking is sufficient to address concerns about the degree of Telstra’s power in telecommunications markets. ...

From: Competition and Consumer Safeguards Bill - Explanatory Memorandum, First reading, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2009

From the proposed act:
1 Short title 4
2 Commencement 4
3 Schedule(s) 6
Schedule 1—Amendments 7
Part 1—Amendments relating to Telstra 7
Division 1—Amendments commencing on the day after this Act receives the Royal Assent 7
Radiocommunications Act 1992 7
Telecommunications Act 1997 8
Trade Practices Act 1974 39
Division 2—Amendments commencing immediately after a final functional separation undertaking comes into force 41
Telecommunications Act 1997 41
Trade Practices Act 1974 44
Division 3—Amendments commencing immediately after an undertaking about structural separation comes into force 45
Telecommunications Act 1997 45
Trade Practices Act 1974 46
Part 2—Telecommunications access regime 47
Division 1—Amendments 47
National Transmission Network Sale Act 1998 47
Telecommunications Act 1997 47
Trade Practices Act 1974 52
Division 2—Transitional provisions 102
Part 3—Anti‑competitive conduct 112
Division 1—Amendments 112
Trade Practices Act 1974 112
Division 2—Application 112
Part 4—Universal service regime 113
Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 113
Part 5—Customer service guarantee 128
Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 128
Part 6—Priority assistance 133
Telecommunications Act 1997 133
Part 7—Infringement notices etc. 136
Division 1—Amendments 136
Telecommunications Act 1997 136
Division 2—Application 143
Part 8—Civil penalty provisions 144
Telecommunications Act 1997 144

From: Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, First reading, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2009

Labels: , , , ,