Australian communications regulator to hold conference over emergency communications standards

Google has confirmed that it will hold a conference to discuss emergency communications regulations this week in Canberra, as it continues to deal with the fallout from the death of its chief executive.

The conference, to be held by the Federal Communications Commission, will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Federal Government’s national headquarters, the Canberra Hotel.

The meeting is being organised as a way of sharing information and ensuring that people are aware of the regulatory requirements that are in place, a Google spokeswoman said.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the conference was planned after the regulator had been briefed on the standards.

“This is an opportunity to discuss our current state of emergency communications and how we plan to ensure that the public can receive communications that are safe and effective, with a focus on those who need it the most,” she said.

The rules, set out in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, require mobile networks to install and operate the Emergency Communications Protocol (ECP) and ensure that a person or group has access to emergency services when an emergency occurs.

The regulator has said that the new rules were designed to ensure people who are experiencing an emergency are able to communicate, and that they also protect the public.

But a recent report by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has found that a significant number of the rules are not being applied to the way Australians communicate.

In particular, the ALRC found that the Communications Act’s requirement for mobile network operators to be able to provide emergency services to a large number of people at once, without interrupting service, was being ignored.

The report found that mobile network providers were not being required to provide ECPs to a number of major cities.

Instead, the report found, the regulatory framework had been “fused” with the “broad definition” of an emergency, including “in the event of a fire, flood, drought, or other public health emergency”.

The ACCC is calling on the Federal government to review the Communications Minister’s proposed changes, saying that they would “impose unnecessary burdens” on the public and are “an affront to the Australian public’s right to have access to the most accurate information”.

“The current Communications Act lacks sufficient clarity about what constitutes an emergency and what information can be required to meet this requirement,” ACCC deputy president Chris Packham said.

“The lack of clarity has resulted in a range of confusing and confusing rules which have not only resulted in the misuse of the existing Communications Act but also a potential breach of privacy.”

The ACCCM is calling for the Federal Labor Government to review its Communications Act to clarify the scope of the new emergency communications rules.