Welcome to Part 2 of our QA interview, in which Communications Alliance chief exec John Stanton looks ahead to an evolving remit for the peak industry body, the role of government and regulators, and of course the ACOMMS Awards as well.
Telecom Times Looking ahead, do you see the role of CA evolving into other areas, remits or approaches? If so, what would these be and what specifically would drive such a move?
Stanton Ultimately, those decisions will be driven by our Members, but standing still in a sea of change is not an option. Three years ago we started an IoT think-tank that became the IoT Alliance Australia and grew so rapidly that it threatened to crush its mother.
We made the decision that the best course was to set it up as an independent company and it has flourished. We took on the responsibilities of the Internet Industry Association a few years ago and have a stronger presence in internet content matters. We created a satellite services group and that is now a vibrant voice for that sector and working well with the new Australian Space Agency.
At the same time, we can’t lose focus on a key part of our core mission – managing the system of co-regulation upon which the industry operates.
This is the platform of more than 120 Codes, Standards and Guidelines – largely invisible to customer - that the industry has created to enable interoperability, customer service and complaint handling, network and customer coordination, safety and operational standards, customer transfers, consumer protections and security for customers.
While there is often a temptation for Governments and regulators to jump immediately to external regulatory options when a problem is evident or perceived, co-regulation is typically more agile and benefits from industry knowledge in its creation – it’s a system that has worked well in Australia since 1997 and must be allowed to continue to deliver value and benefit to all Australian telecommunications users.
Telecom Times The ACOMMS – now in its 12th year – never fail to provide a great occasion for those telco-minded entities to come together, network and/or raise their companies’ profile. (Shortlisted finalists)
Do you think the format – solid as it is – will at any point need to be tweaked to include a greater focus on ‘new tech’ like AI, machine learning etc.?
Stanton There’s no doubt the award categories will continue to evolve, because transformation is a constant in the telco sector – we introduced an award for IoT two years ago, for example.
What we want to retain in the format is the sense of celebration around shared endeavour and achievement.
The telco sector is an enabler for all other industries and makes an enormous contribution to the Australian economy - one that is not always fully recognised.
Telecom Times Does it help that we have such an avuncular presence in the current Comms minister? *
Stanton We’re waiting to see who the Minister is right now! Mitch Fifield is well-regarded by the sector. He made the effort to get across the detail of our industry. He is pretty available, by Ministerial standards and does listen.
We recognize that there has been political and constituent pressure around some of the challenges during the NBN rollout, and Mitch has had to manage that. He might have leaned too far in the direction of direct regulation just lately, but opinions will vary on that issue.
Telecom Times Thank you for your time, John. Am looking forward to your speech this week at the ACOMMS.**
*At the time of going to press, the Coalition Government had just selected Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to be the next Prime Minister and Treasurer. UPDATE: On Sunday, the new cabinet was announced, with Mitch Fifield continuing in his role as Communications Minister.
** The 2018 ACOMM Awards winners will be announced on Wednesday, 29th of August at the Hyatt Regency Sydney, 161 Sussex Street, Sydney.