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Owners Corporation Law

05 Jun 2018

High-speed internet OC priority

Technology is advancing so quickly these days.

That television set and that stereo that we bought just three years ago (which still works just fine by the way) is all too quickly consigned to the obsolete pile, as consumer electronic brands compete to bring out the next biggest thing.

In fact, we don’t just need an iPhone to keep in touch, nowadays we need an iWatch for when we walk out the front door and forget our iPhones.

In order to keep us connected to the world around us, the networks and cabling and telecommunication towers that line our cities and streets are becoming more numerous, as our desire and demand grows for faster and faster download speeds to power our digital lives.

The problem for telecommunications network and service providers is where to place all of this cabling and infrastructure without it becoming an obtrusive eyesore for the public. There is only so much cabling that can be buried under the footpaths and streets of this city. The answer is to utilise the MDF rooms and the rooftops of many of our high-rise apartment buildings.

In addition, fitting out the common property corridors and hallways with receivers and access points can boost residents’ access to high-speed cable and wireless internet and, if it’s one thing that every apartment resident loves, its lighting-quick internet speeds. In some buildings, this can become a selling-point to increase the weekly rental value of units.

The challenge for committees is to let the right service provider in. There are dozens of telecommunication companies that offer services in this area, and the owners’ corporation (OC) has the power to decide to enter into an access agreement that is mutually beneficial for both parties and at no cost to the OC.

As always, there are things to look out for, such as:

Will the service provider promote open access to competing service providers in the building, so that residents are free to choose their own provider?

Is the service provider installing the latest technology into the building, or are they simply installing left-over stock of old technology that will become obsolete in 12 months time?

Is the service provider requiring rooftop access to install equipment and if so, do you know what is being installed and for what purpose? Rooftop installations can be quite lucrative for network providers, as the bandwidth and frequency can then be utilised to add to the existing network and therefore generate income from third party service providers that need to connect and host from these networks.

OCs should always look to maximise the opportunities to defray levy costs, and earning income from leasing seldom-used rooftop space to network providers is a handy way to keep levies low. But roof space should never be given away for nothing.

Some of the lower-end service providers are now aggressively seeking to expand their business share by serving buildings with “installation notices” under the Telecommunications Act and are then forcing their way into buildings around Melbourne.

These installation notices should, in most cases, be objected to strongly by the OC – and within seven days – otherwise the OC risks the prospect of accepting these service providers to enter the building.

However, any installations or additions to common property by these service providers shall require the OC to first pass a special resolution, and especially if rooftop antennas are proposed to be installed.

In summary, these types of service upgrades and the adoption of this technology ought to be welcomed by committees, but the devil is always in the fine print and care should be taken to ensure that the building is not getting fleeced.

Tom Bacon

Principal - Strata Title Lawyers

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