Internet Australia has reiterated concerns over the gap between the expected cost to the telecommunications sector of implementing data retention and the government funding being made available to telcos and ISPs.
The government last week officially launched its long-awaited grants program, which will funnel up to $128.4 million to telcos to help defray the capital costs of data retention.
Grant applications close at 5pm on 23 February.
Internet Australia said it was concerned that the funding available falls “well short” of the expected costs to industry of data retention.
In the 2015-16 federal budget the government set aside a total of $131.3 million over three years for implementing data retention; however, that total included the cost of administering the grants program and providing technical guidance to the telco sector and the development of standards related to data retention.
A government-commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers study estimated that the cost to industry of implementing the regime would be between $188.8 million and $319.1 million.
The average cost per customer of the scheme over a decade would equate to between $1.83 and $6.12 per customer per year, the study found.
The data retention grants program will operate over three years and be administered Attorney-General’s Department.
Guidelines (PDF) for the grants scheme issued by the department state that the program “aims to address smaller providers’ greater need for financial assistance and to take into account the differentiated impact of data retention across various segments of the telecommunications industry”.
Applications for funding must include a telco’s turnover, the number and type of services it offers that are covered by the data retention regime, the number of subscribers, the total data storage capacity needed to comply with the scheme, and details of the activities related to achieving technical capability to comply with its data retention obligations.
Funds available to individual businesses will be determined by a score that takes into account the size of the business (with smaller scale businesses receiving a higher score) and a figure dubbed the ‘typical implementation impact’ (taking into account the number of subscribers, storage requirements, eligible services and annual turnover).
The guidelines state that the government may make public the funding given to individual applicants.