ACMA review proposes 'full-stack' comms regulation

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ACMA review proposes 'full-stack' comms regulation
Communications minister Mitch Fifield.

Four-layer regulatory structure.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) could be given a deeper remit to cover all layers of the communications sector if the recommendations of a government review are enacted.

The government announced a review of the regulator last June to determine if ACMA had been able to keep up with the rapid change in the communications sector over the past decade, with internet-delivered services and content taking over from traditional broadcasters and other providers.

The draft report of the review, published on Friday, proposes a stack-based view of interconnected communications to prevent the regulator from being firmly tied to siloed industry structures.

ACMA's remit should cover the applications and content layer -  including voice and video calls over the internet - and providers such as Netflix and Presto, the report states.

A further three layers would cover regulation of devices likes TVs, phones and tablets, networking and routing protocols, and infrastructure such as cabling and electromagnetic mediums.

Such a structure would allow ACMA to respond quicker to emerging issues and consumer harms, the report states.

The scope of the review included the possibility of ACMA losing some of its functions to other agencies or the private sector.

In its draft report, the Communications department suggested ACMA's revenue collection be handled by the Australian Tax Office, and the agency's cyber security programs be transferred to the Attorney-General's Department for integration with the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

ACMA should also explore if technical regulation, number allocation and mature schemes such as the Do Not Call Register could be handled by the industry itself.

Compliance and enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act (2001) should be shifted from the Australian Federal Police to ACMA, the review suggested.

Further regulatory changes are on the cards as the government considers reworking elements of the present set of laws that underpin ACMA's regulatory role, which the report said were outdated, unnecessary or ineffective.

The telecommunications, broadcasting services and radio communications acts, developed in the 90s, are based on the notion of stand-alone networks delivering specific services, a concept which has changed fundamentally with the advent of the internet.

ACMA should also work closer with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to develop shared strategies for international engagement and research. 

The Communications department is inviting interested parties to provide feedback on the draft report until June 10.

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