Overwhelming Industry Response to ACMA Cabling Regulation Consultation Paper

In BICSI Bytes, Newsby info@bicsi.com.au

In December, BICSI submitted two formal responses to the ACMA’s Consultation Paper reviewing the current regulation of telecommunications customer cabling – one from BICSI and another from BRCA. In total, 32 submissions were made to the ACMA, with a strong common message from industry for tighter, not looser cabling regulation.

BICSI’s submissions were produced by committees made up of BICSI members who compiled expert views and opinions representative of the industry’s perspective of current and future issues.

In forming our submissions, BICSI also worked with other industry groups – electrical, security, life-safety, AV, carrier, healthcare, engineering, education and distribution – to share views on broader issues affected by ICT infrastructure and the impact of cabling regulation. What resulted from this cooperative approach was a better understanding of the current telecommunications legislation and the increasing dependence of many services on ICT infrastructure by all of these industry bodies, while ensuring we all had a common vision for the future of cabling regulation in Australia.

Recent feedback from the ACMA was that the wider industry overwhelmingly opposed any reduction in regulation that the ACMA was exploring in its Consultation Paper. In fact, there was a strong call from industry for the ACMA to update the regulations to factor new technologies like digital power and Internet of Things (IoT) and strengthen its enforcement of the regulations; as well as revising the administration of vocational education and qualifications for the cabling profession.

In total, there were 32 submissions to the Consultation Paper – nearly 10 times the number of submissions the ACMA would normally receive to its Consultation Papers. This sends a clear message to the regulator on the industry’s unanimous views on cabling regulations. You can see 31 of the 32 submissions, as well as the ACMA’s Consultation Paper at https://www.acma.gov.au/Home/theACMA/review-of-regulation-of-telecommunications-customer-cabling

The rationale presented in the Consultation Paper was that the telecommunications landscape had changed significantly since the regulations – which only address safety and network integrity, not quality or performance – were instigated and that the risks may have diminished over that time, questioning if they needed updating commensurate with the technology changes, or the need for cabling regulation at all. The Paper cited the industry’s migration to non-conductive optical fibre in the network and wireless in premises, together with the prevalence of electrical residual current devices (RCDs or ‘safety switches’) in electrical circuits as removing the risks of electrocution.

As you will see in many of the submissions, this rationale was proved to be an erroneous assumption, with the following collective arguments:

– most of the carrier network is still copper thanks to the MTM (Multi-Technology Mix) structure of the NBN;
– RCD deployment is minimal in Australian premises and will take several decades to be 100% deployed; and
– Wireless technologies are supplementing wired technologies, not replacing them. In fact the increasing utilisation of wireless in Wi-Fi, DAS, 4G, 5G, etc applications is seeing more – not less – cabling being installed in premises.

Further arguments were collectively presented in favour of tighter cabling regulations on the basis of safety and network integrity because of:

– The growing adoption of Power over Ethernet (PoE) as a more cost-effective way to power devices in buildings and remote locations instead of mains-power, which introduces heat and fire-related risks to cabling.
– The increasing dependence of life-safety, security and health services on telecommunications cabling, as internet-connected technologies become more pervasive.
– The emergence of ‘digital power’ that has the potential to introduce hazardous voltages and currents onto telecommunications cabling that could be harmful to both users and cablers. These are defined in the Standards as “energy sources” and classified as ES1, ES2, ES3.

The ACMA is currently reviewing all of the submissions in order to take appropriate steps moving forward. We are awaiting their official comments on them in due course. As soon as BICSI receives comments from the ACMA, we will notify BICSI members.

In the meantime, we encourage you to review the submissions to gain a deeper insight into the industry’s views on many facets of cabling regulation.