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Data retention grants still not flowing to Australia telcos

Carriers still in the dark about how much they'll get or when ahead of April 2017 deadline

By Simon Sharwood, 20 Jul 2016

Australia's telcos and internet service providers still have not been told when they will receive promised grants to help them implement mandatory metadata collection.

Australia passed metadata retention laws in 2015 and they came into force on October 13th, 2015, albeit with a two-year grace period in which to satisfy the nation's attorney-general that each carrier's plans meet collection and retention guidelines.

The nation's government also promised AU$128.4m would be given to carriers as “grants” to help them fund their data retention efforts. The government made that fund available because it was felt unfair to have carriers assume all the cost of metadata retention, although the $128.4m figure fell well short of estimates for industry-wide implementation.

Whatever the cost of implementing metadata retention, by April 2016, telcos were complaining they'd not yet seen a cent despite funding applications closing on February 23rd, 2016. Carriers would quite like to at least know how much cash they'll get, so they can conduct sensible business planning.

Recent chatter among telcos suggests money is yet to flow. The Register has since learned, in background briefings with relevant officials, that carriers still have not been told when when funding will arrive, or how much each will receive.

We understand that discussions between the attorney-general's department and carriers continues, and that letters will eventually be dispatched to reveal just how much cash each carrier scores.

Which won't be much comfort to carriers trying to plan their budgets for metadata retention efforts, not least because April 12th, 2017, is the last day on which carriers will be able to operate under an interim data retention plan. ®

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