Telstra lands tower fee win in Qld court

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Telstra lands tower fee win in Qld court

No need to pay high rates while it challenges laws.

Telstra will not have to pay rent at a higher rate to the Queensland government for mobile towers situated on Crown land while it challenges the validity of laws that determine the rents.

Federal Court Justice Darryl Rangiah yesterday dismissed an interlocutory application by the state seeking continued payment of land access rents while the case is running.

Telstra has about 488 leases on state lands for telecommunications towers. The telco argues that laws for leasing state land discriminate against carriers and wants them overturned.

The state asserts in a cross-claim it is owed "rent and penalty interest" by Telstra to the tune of $12.5 million.

But the state suffered a setback yesterday when Justice Rangiah ruled it could not keep collecting rents while the validity of rules that set the rents is challenged.

"The state was unable to cite any case in which a court has made a declaration to the effect that a party is required to comply with legislation pending the determination of its validity," Justice Rangiah said in his judgment.

He also said that directing Telstra to pay while the case is heard raises "the possibility of there being inconsistent declarations" made now and at the finalisation of the primary case.

A Telstra spokesperson has been contacted by iTnews for comment.

The main part of the trial "is still some way off", according to Justice Rangiah.

Telcos are challenging land access rents in multiple states. They invariably argue they aren't against paying fees, but dispute the way fees are calculated by state governments, and say that the fees are increasing the costs of mobile services.

Correction 5/12, 4.25pm: This story originally stated that the decision meant Telstra would not have to continue paying rent for land access until the case was decided. This is incorrect - Telstra will pay rent, but at a lower rate than that sought by the state government. iTnews apologises for the error.

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