ACMA feels regulatory squeeze of evolving networks

Media regulator considers user-based identity management to solve potential identification issues

The influx of new internet access technologies and accompanying devices has put pressure on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to rethink how it regulates service providers and manages user identities.

In its Technology developments in the digital economy report (PDF), released last week, the media regulator outlined the varied access technologies and their respective effects on consumer behaviour.

In doing so, ACMA found the increase in internet traffic and, in particular, dynamic media services put “pressure on existing regulatory arrangements that are in their second decade of operation and were developed for a less complex communications business and service environment”.

In particular, the regulatory highlighted user identity management as a cause for concern, as service providers moved from identity management developed for legacy systems to internet-based communications services.

“Home network users are under pressure to manage a growing number of disparate communication and application related identities coupled with their specific security requirements,” the report reads.

“Without standardisation, however, providers may offer bundled network and service solutions of a proprietary 'sticky' nature. The challenge for Home Networks will be developing interoperable delivery systems that are flexible enough to allow new services to be adopted from a variety of suppliers.”

According to the report, the proliferation of services afforded by wireless technologies as well as faster internet access methods such as fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), as proposed under the National Broadband Network (NBN), create new issues for ACMA and service providers alike in maintaining ways of identifying users across different media.

“Telecommunications systems developed a proxy for individual identities by assigning a unique integer-based phone number to every household, business and end user, allowing interoperability and facilitating global communications,” the report reads.

“The ACMA’s numbering work program is examining the various uses made of phone numbers, including as a source of individual identity, and how these uses may be relevant in the transition to an IP-based communications environment.”

In developing new regulatory measures, ACMA’s report indicates the government body may look to user-centric identity management, allowing users to customise their own level of security and interaction across different services. Other methods, such as those focussed on the service provider - as is currently used - and federated management across services may also be considered.

Though traditionally associated with spectrum management and licensing, ACMA’s report into the digital economy places the regulator into the unexpected role of encouraging the digital community and economy, with closer interaction with service providers and focusses on end-user interactions such as mobile payment methods.

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Tags digital economyAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

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