The federal government has been asked to strengthen proposed laws that would make it easier for telcos or emergency services to put up temporary antennas or mobile towers.
A senate committee that has been looking into the bill recommended last night that it be passed, subject to a review of safeguards.
The bill essentially has two components: allowing emergency services access to NBN towers in some circumstances, and allowing telcos to set up temporary towers, also in a limited set of circumstances.
The committee found few problems with opening up NBN towers to emergency services, effectively mirroring an access power the agencies already have for non NBN-owned assets.
But the idea that mobile telcos could stand up temporary towers outside of local planning approvals was a bit more contentious.
The government wants to allow telcos to do this to “maintain coverage during the maintenance of existing facilities or construction or installation of replacement facilities; to provide additional coverage during concerts, festivals, sports or peak holiday periods; or to provide services to emergency services during emergencies or natural disasters.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, representative telco bodies were in favour of the proposal while similar industry bodies representing councils were against it.
The committee indicated conditional support, under the proviso that the government re-examine some of the proposed safeguards to ensure they could not be exploited.
In particular, the committee said there could be a need for “greater certainty that carriers will not be able to relocate temporary facilities as a means to avoid the maximum time limit” that such a tower can stay up in one location.
It also suggested that “heritage areas, including places of cultural and environmental significance”, should be subject to more stringent rules.
The Greens filed a dissenting report arguing that “events, holiday periods, and scheduled
Maintenance” should not be legislated reasons to put up a temporary tower anywhere.