Telcos hit out at govt's infrastructure security legislation

Coalition of industry groups rejects bill that would increase government's power to intervene in telcos' operations

Representatives of the telecommunications industry have flatly rejected as regulatory over-reach a government scheme intended to boost infrastructure security.

The government's Telecommunications Sector Security Reform will give the government a range of new powers to demand information and issue directions to carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries.

The bill could require a telco to provide procurement plans to the government and notify the government of changes to network design.

A joint submission to the government from the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, and Communications Alliance says that the government's proposed legislation, the snappily named Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, will fail to deliver increased protection to telco infrastructure.

It will be a "significant deterrent" to technological investment, a submission by the coalition to a government consultation on the exposure draft of the bill.

The bill "risks being highly disruptive to the deployment of new network technologies that are more robust in preventing cyber attack", " hands unjustifiably significant additional and intrusive powers to Government and places regulatory burdens on Industry that will undermine its ability to protect against and respond to cyber attacks" and will undermine Australia's competitiveness through imposing additional costs on industry and consumers, states the submission.

"Industry is not convinced that Government, security agencies, Industry or the Australian public will derive significant benefits from the proposed reforms that would justify the intrusion into the commercial operations of Australian C/CSPs [carriers, carriage service providers and carriage service intermediaries] and the attendant compliance costs," the submission states.

"The additional costs of compliance may also make Australian based C/CSPs uncompetitive in the delivery of infrastructure and services to the global telecommunications market, including multinational corporations.

"In fact, the Associations see the very real danger that the proposed reforms will mean a step backwards in dealing with cyber threats and breaches as they will divert resources from investing in addressing cyber security threats to compliance with onerous obligations and reduce the ability for the ICT industry and its clients to proactively monitor and quickly respond to threats and breaches."

Earlier this month communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government recognised industry concern that the legislation was heavy handed.

"What the new proposed laws are seeking to do is to provide greater certainty to telcos," Turnbull said in an interview with ABC Radio.

Telcos and the government are "on a unity ticket," the minister said.

"The telcos want their networks to be safe from interference, the government wants to be able to cooperate and help them protect their networks."

"The relationship between the telcos and the government, which obviously has access to a lot of security information through its own security agencies... should be one that is extremely practical and, if you like, collaborative," Turnbull said.

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Tags national securityTelecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR)Malcolm TurnbullsecurityTelecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment BillTelecommunications

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