Leaked TISA draft proposes sweeping changes to Australian telco laws

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Leaked TISA draft proposes sweeping changes to Australian telco laws

Removes NBN cherry-picking protections, restrictions on telco foreign ownership.

Australian telcos and internet providers may face a slew of changes to the current regulatory and legislative regimes if the provisions in a leaked draft of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) are adopted by the government.

Few details as to what the new trade agreement will mandate have been released so far.

However, whistleblower website Wikileaks overnight published 12 unseen draft texts of the TISA, which is presently being negotiated by Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union and 23 other major economies bar China, Russia, India and Brazil.

Much of Australia's present telco regulation would have to be rewritten, if the TISA becomes binding in its current form.

The draft TISA proposes that state-funded networks like the NBN should no longer be protected against "cherry picking" by other providers.

There would also be no restrictions on overseas ownership and foreign investment in telco services provision. This could open the door to foreign ownership of Telstra, which has restrictions on the amount that can be held by overseas investors.

The electronic commerce annex within the draft TISA also seeks to protect "net neutrality" or prevent providers from interfering with customers' network connections through methods such as traffic prioritisation and competitor site blocking.

The net neutrality protections in TISA could be undermined by the agreement permitting "reasonable" site blocking and the adoption of permissive service-blocking provisions, which providers can use to restrict subscribers' traffic to and from specific internet destinations.

Australia would not be allowed to require that sensitive information such as the metadata telcos are now forced to retain is stored only in the country as per an earlier leak of the financial services annex of the TISA.

Countries would have to publish interconnection offers from major suppliers of telco services and providers would be required to offer these to other operators, on the same terms as they do to their own subsidiaries, TISA proposes.

Underseas cable operators must also provide interconnection services with access to colocation facilities at reasonable rates, the draft trade agreement states.

TISA negotiations started under Labor in 2013, and may be close to conslusion. The proposed trade agreement is supported by the Coalition government.

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