Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan
Minister of Communications, Information technology and the Arts
27 July 2005
Initiatives to address concerns over phone towers
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today announced a package of initiatives to improve the way mobile phone towers are deployed.
“I am aware that some communities and individuals are concerned about the actions of carriers in installing mobile phone towers,” Senator Coonan said.
“This package of initiatives agreed to by the carriers will help address these concerns, and I welcome the industry’s commitment to be more transparent in its processes,” Senator Coonan said.
“The initiatives include improved community notification requirements, increased public education, improving the look and design of towers, independent audits of electromagnetic emissions (EME) from towers, and a new EME reporting framework.
“The carriers have also given an undertaking to avoid placing a tower on single residential dwellings without the approval of the landowner. I have asked the Mobile Carriers Forum (representing Hutchison, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone) to consider further initiatives to minimise the impact on residential properties, for example extending this undertaking to multi-storey residential buildings.
“I will also be seeking an undertaking to each of these initiatives from other carriers, including wireless broadband providers,” Senator Coonan said.
The Telecommunications Act 1997 provides carriers with exemption from State or Territory legislation to install certain specified facilities, primarily those which are defined as low-impact facilities. However, when installing such facilities, carriers must comply with the requirements specified in the Australian Communications Industry Forum code, including strict consultation requirements.
“I believe that the current regulatory framework continues to balance carriers’ abilities to meet consumers’ needs to access telecommunications services, while still recognising a community’s interests in its environment,” Senator Coonan said.
“Nevertheless, there is scope to fine tune and add clarity to current deployment practices while still enabling carriers to continue to provide access to mobile phone and wireless broadband services in a timely manner.”
The package of initiatives was unveiled at a meeting today in Canberra with representatives from the industry, Tower Sanity Alliance, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
“Today’s meeting was very productive and I understand that the industry will continue to meet with community representatives to examine options for further improvements to existing practices, such as the provision of training to carriers’ contractors on deployment processes,” Senator Coonan said.
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