Draft of new radiocommunications legislation released
The long-awaited Radiocommunications Bill 2017 – a draft of what will become a new Radiocommunications Act – was released on 18 May, along with a raft of supporting papers and fact sheets; 17 in all. The Exposure Draft of the Radiocommunications Bill 2017 comprises 21 Parts and runs to 217 pages. However, it is incomplete, as the subject of broadcasting is to be covered separately, later.
Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH
The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking stakeholder feedback, with a closing date for submissions of 30 June 2017. For those interested, the Bill package needs to be read in conjunction with the Department’s “Spectrum Pricing” paper.
A single licensing system is promoted as the centrepiece of the Bill. The current system of apparatus, class and spectrum licensing will disappear. The new system is promoted as providing " . . a more administratively streamlined approach for users in regards to licensing, planning, allocation and renewal, and [to] give users greater certainty of process." Under the new framework, the key characteristics of a licence – including such parameters as allocated frequencies or frequency bands, permitted transmitter power, and transmission bandwidths, as well as other technical and administrative details – will be specified on the licence itself. The Department of Communications and the Arts say this parameters-based licensing will provide greater clarity for the user. The Bill provides for licences to be issued for terms up to 20 years.
Amateur radio licensing and licence conditions are not mentioned in the Bill as these are matters that will be covered by what is known as subordinate legislation – the regulations set out in a licence conditions determination document. Likewise, licence fees and taxes are not included in the Bill. To regulate the use of spectrum without a licence – currently covered under Class licensing – ‘Spectrum authorisations’ will be developed and issued by the ACMA. According to the Department of Communications and the Arts, “Spectrum authorisations will not have to be applied for and no fees will be payable. The core feature of authorisations will be that they are intended to allow radiocommunications devices to be operated in certain parts of the spectrum on a shared basis, subject to common conditions.
"Conditions may also be imposed that ensure that devices must not be operated to cause interference to licensed radiocommunications services, and no protections from interference are provided to spectrum authorised users. That is, it will operate on a ‘no protection/no interference’ basis."
As expected, the Bill will enable the ACMA to delegate any or all of its general licencing functions or powers to an eligible Australian corporation. To support this, the ACMA may make delegation rules setting out requirements that must be complied with by delegates and may also issue binding directions to a delegate. Any delegation may be supported by a management rights agreement between the delegate and the ACMA. It is proposed that there be a staged transition between the 1992 Radiocommunications Act and the new Act, when it comes into force.
A media release from the Minister for Communications, Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, advises that the Department of Communications and the Arts will be hosting a series of presentations over the coming weeks to introduce stakeholders to the Bill and related material. The Minister advises that the Government intends to present a further Exposure Draft to stakeholders for comment before finalising the legislation for introduction to Parliament. This subsequent Exposure Draft will be informed by stakeholder feedback from the initial consultation. The full consultation package is available at the following Link
The WIA’s Spectrum Strategy Committee is analysing the Bill package in advance of preparing a comprehensive response.
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