ACMA requires NBN warning on backup power

A storm can take out voice services on fibre without a battery backup

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman

Telcos selling National Broadband Network fibre services will have warn customers that a mains power failure could knock out voice services under new rules drawn up by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Unless a battery or other alternative backup power supply is installed, a power outage will kill all services supplied over optical fibre, including Internet and fixed-line telephones. This is unlike traditional copper phone services, which are powered from the exchange.

When the NBN was first rolling out, the government had required the installation of a battery to provide backup power, but last year the previous Labor federal government decided to make the installation optional except for users with a life-threatening medical condition.

In today’s decision, the ACMA said requiring a warning about this issue is important because many older Australians still rely on fixed-line services for voice services.

“NBN fibre consumers need to make an informed choice whether to install battery backup in light of their particular needs,” said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman.

“Without reliable safeguards to ensure adequate information is provided to inform that choice, there is a small but real chance that unaware consumers may be put at risk, particularly in an emergency.”

The ACMA had dismissed industry self-regulation as a workable solution to this problem back in November.

“We are confident that the new service provider rules strike the right balance between ensuring consumers have the appropriate information to make an informed choice, while not imposing an unnecessary and costly burden on industry,” Chapman said today.

The new rules go into effect on 2 October 2014.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags regulatoryrulesregulationnational broadband networkfibretelcosgovernmentAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)lawsNBN

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