Internet Australia joins outcry at telco infrastructure security bill

Government proposals to boost network security continue to draw fire

Internet Australia has joined representatives of the telecommunications and ICT industries in condemning a draft bill the government says is intended to boost the security of Australia's telco infrastructure.

The controversial Telecommunications Sector Security Reform program would be implemented by the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, an exposure draft of which the government published in late June.

The bill would boost government powers to demand information and issue directions telcos. For example a telco could be compelled provide procurement plans to the government and notify the government of changes to network design.

In some cases, a telco could be banned from purchasing equipment from a particular vendor.

The proposed legislation represents "an unacceptable and unreasonable transfer of responsibility and oversight from the Parliament to the bureaucracy," Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton wrote in a submission to the Attorney-General Department's consultation on the bill.

The government should consult with industry and peak bodies such as Internet Australia, Patton argued.

"Even allowing for conscientious consideration of industry’s needs, this Bill places too much arbitrary power in the hands of the Attorney General’s Department. This is not a criticism of any individuals, or of the department per se, it is simply the observation that the essential level of technical knowledge in respect of telecommunications systems and equipment is not resident in the department.

"This is something that has been amply demonstrated in the ongoing problems associated with the implementation of the Data Retention Act.

"This proposed legislation will potentially hamper innovation and the evolution of our telecommunications networks by forcing companies to use a limited range of proprietary products rather than develop their own equipment that is just as secure but much less costly."

A joint submission from the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, and Communications Alliance has condemned the government's proposals as a "significant deterrent" to technological investment in Australia.

The joint submission argued that the proposals would deter carriers and carriage service providers from deploying new technologies that could enhance network security and that the regulatory burden on the industry "will undermine its ability to protect against and respond to cyber attacks".

"This proposed legislation will potentially hamper innovation and the evolution of our telecommunications networks by forcing companies to use a limited range of proprietary products rather than develop their own equipment that is just as secure but much less costly," argued Internet Australia's submission, which the organisation made public today.

Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton.

"This is another example of the trend towards ad hoc legislation being brought in to solve a specific problem without proper consideration of the potential unintended consequences that could adversely affect how our digitally enabled economy grows. We’ve had the Data Retention Act, the unproven site blocking legislation and now a plan to tell the industry what equipment it can and cannot buy."

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Tags national securityTelecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR)Internet AustraliaMalcolm TurnbullLaurie PattonsecurityTelecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment BillTelecommunications

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