Telco CEOs call for certainty on data retention costs

Letter to government calls for the government to 'provide a firm indication of the Government contribution' to the setup costs for a data retention regime

Chief executives from Australia's largest telcos have called for the government to spell out its contribution to the costs of establishing a data retention regime.

A letter sent to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis call for the government "at the very least" to "provide a firm indication of the Government contribution, expressed as a percentage of the final determined cost."

The letter is signed by a number of telco executives, including Telstra's CEO David Thodey, Optus chairperson Paul O'Sullivan, Vodafone CEO Inaki Berroeta, M2 CEO Geoff Horth, iiNet CEO David Buckingham, and David Tudehope, the CEO of Macquarie Telecom.

The letter was drafted under the auspices of peak telco industry body, Communications Alliance.

"Our request to you is, we believe, relatively simple and reasonable," the letter states.

"It is that the Government provide to industry, the Parliament and the wider community a degree of certainty as to the size of the Government’s planned contribution (and the planned methodology for apportioning those funds between [telecommunications carriers and carriage service providers] of differing types and market shares) in advance of the Bill being debated and potentially passed into law."

The report of the parliamentary inquiry into the data retention bill recommended the government make a "substantial contribution to the upfront capital costs of service providers implementing their data retention obligations".

An analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the government pegged the cost of setting up a data retention regime at between $188.8 million and $319.1 million.

"The Government has previously announced its commitment to make a reasonable contribution to the upfront capital expenditure required to implement data retention obligations," stated a response from Brandis and Turnbull to the PJCIS report.

The government has not indicated whether it will contribute to the ongoing expenses incurred by telcos as a result of data retention.

"The Committee expects that national security and law enforcement agencies will continue to contribute to the operational costs associated with accessing data under the scheme under the existing ‘no profit, no loss’ arrangements," the PJCIS report stated.

"We will continue to discuss with Government the issues associated with capital maintenance costs and operational costs," states the letter from telco CEOs.

Debate on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 is scheduled for tomorrow.

Read more: TPG's acquisition of iiNet good for competition, says Vodafone

"We look forward to the Government’s early response on this issue, particularly given that the Bill is scheduled for debate this week," the letter states.

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