Data retention: Government yet to reveal details of funding arrangements

The government is yet to reveal how it will allocate funding to help ISPs comply with the new data retention law

The Attorney-General's Department has warned Internet service providers they must start preparing to meet their new obligations under the data retention regime, but the government is yet to spell out some important details of how the policy will operate.

In particular, the government is yet to publish any details of how it plans to dispense the funds set aside to help telcos implement systems to capture and retain for 24 months a range of customer data.

Data retention obligations kick in on 13 October.

A post attributed to the Attorney-General's Department on the Australian Communications and Media Authority's 'Engage' blog notes that the government has set aside $131.3 million for capital costs related to getting the scheme up and running.

Details on how that money will be dispensed will be available "soon" the blog entry states.

The level of funding has previously been criticised for falling short of the estimate contained in a government-commissioned report of $188.8 million to $319.1 million to establish the scheme.

In this year's federal budget, the government also set aside $10.6 million over four years is allocated for "various agencies to provide technical guidance to the telecommunications industry, undertake risk and technical assessments and support the development of standards and specifications for data retention systems".

In addition, there was funding for the Commonwealth Ombudsman to monitor the scheme.

"It is disappointing that we still do not have any insight into how the government proposes to apportion the budgeted funds among the Australian service provider population," said John Stanton, the CEO of telco industry body Communications Alliance.

"We're very concerned about the uncertainty, especially as it will impact on smaller ISPs that don’t have the internal resources that the large telcos can divert to getting things ready for the implementation," said Laurie Patton, the CEO of Internet Australia (previously known as the Internet Society of Australia).

"We are also conscious that the amount set aside in the budget will not cover all the industry costs so consumers will inevitably be hit with higher Internet charges to cover the difference," Patton said.

"Service providers who are not able to comply with the regime by 13 October need to have an implementation plan (detailing how they intend to become compliant within 18 months) approved by that date," Stanton said.

"To be confident about getting their plan approved, those service providers need to submit the implementation plan by 13 August."

"We are little more than two months away from that date, so the absence of information from government about what funding will be available is making it all the more difficult for service providers to plan and budget for the system and business process changes they will need to put in place," the Comms Alliance CEO added.

The Attorney-General's Department has been approached for comment.

The government successfully pushed data retention through parliament earlier this year.