ALGA again cautions against unregulated rollout of 5G by telcos

The continued expansion of telecommunications infrastructure under the Low Impact Facilities Determinations (LIFD) remains a concern for local government, ALGA has said.

In a letter to the Federal  Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, ALGA said the rollout of new networks such as 5G in a non-regulatory environment was eroding local government’s planning role and its ability to grow towns and cities in consultation with its communities.

“Local government’s preference is for changes to the powers and immunities for carriers to be regulated,” ALGA said.

This was based on the long experience of carriers “interpreting the rules as they see fit and installing infrastructure outside the planning process”.

ALGA was responding to the third round of consultations by the department to implement changes to the Powers and Immunities Framework.

While supportive of proposals to improve the framework that are governed by codes of practice around, ALGA said expanding the LIFD, particularly for slim/smart poles, was totally opposed by local government.

Carriers argued smart poles would improve coverage and service quality while using a more discrete design, but it was difficult to see how 12-metre poles could be called discrete.

“Over the years, carriers have consistently argued the need for the faster, less regulated, more efficient rollout of their infrastructure,” ALGA said.

“They also argue that the planning process slows down their rollout – but show little regard for the long-term impact of operating without proper planning.”

The association raised Telstra’s digital billboards as a strong example of the consequences of LIFD, and the desire of carriers to circumvent local planning requirements.

Local government does not accept that significant economic benefits may be realised if [slim] poles are specified as low impact facilities, ALGA said.

From a local government perspective, the safety and structural integrity of slim poles take priority over cost as a primary consideration, it said.