The outline of a program to help defray the costs to telecommunications providers of implementing data retention is expected to be made public in November, according to an email sent to service providers covered by the legislation by the Attorney-General's Department.
However, it is understood that the model for distributing the funds still needs to be finalised over coming weeks by the Data Retention Implementation Working Group, which brings together industry and government representatives.
The timing means that telcos and ISPs are potentially required to implement data retention measures before they are given details of the grants program.
Data retention obligations kick in on 13 October. However, service providers who have submitted an approved Data Retention Implementation Plan may have until 12 April 2017 to be fully compliant.
The guidelines for the funding program are expected to be made available in December, with the grants round closing late January 2016 and first payments made in the first half of next year.
The data retention legislation was passed in March.
The government confirmed to Computerworld in July that the data retention grants program was still being worked on.
In an ABC interview published on Friday, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton called for "urgent clarity" on the program.
The federal budget included $131.3 million over three years for the program to help the telecommunications industry with the capital costs of implementing their data retention obligations. From the funding set aside for the program, some $128.4 million will be distributed to telcos.
No measures to defer the ongoing costs of data retention to telcos were earmarked by the government.
The level of funding falls short of the estimated $188.8 million to $319.1 million it will cost to implement data retention.
According to the government, the funding program will take into account recommendation 16 of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s report on data retention.
The PJCIS recommended that in devising a program to help offset the cost of implementing data retention, the government "should ensure that an appropriate balance is achieved that accounts for the significant variations between the services, business models, sizes and financial positions of different companies within the telecommunications industry."
The report said that the funding model should provide sufficient support to smaller telcos; minimise any anti-competitve impacts or market distortions; take into account the different impact of data retention on different segments of the telco industry and incentivise timely compliance with data retention obligations.
The report also recommended that program be devised such that it does not result in windfall payments to service providers to operate and maintain legacy systems, and it should take into account telcos that invested in data retention capabilities ahead of the legislation being passed.