Telstra has taken its city council dispute over the installation of payphones with large billboards to Federal Court as the tel-co giant tries to save both time and money.
Telstra’s general counsel, legal and corporate affairs Carmel Mulhern said the move would help streamline the issue, with the Federal Court set to rule if the new digital billboards fall under the “low-impact facilities” criteria of the Telecommunications Act.
If it does, the billboards would not require regulation by local councils.
Telstra is currently battling the City of Melbourne after it knocked back 81 advertising applications on Telstra’s new giant payphones, with the phone company set to lose millions from the decision.
Off the back of that, the City of Sydney joined Melbourne in the fight against Telstra to stop the telco brand from installing new payphones with advertising display panels around the city.
The City of Sydney said it did not believe Telstra was “entitled” to install or upgrade the payphones, confirming it would continue to look at other options.
A spokesperson from the City of Sydney said in a statement: “The City of Sydney currently has agreements in place with Telstra and JCDecaux for the installation of payphones in our local government area. These agreements are due to expire next year.
“Our view is that the new or upgraded payphones are not intended to be designed solely for use as a content and carriage service.”
The payphones are currently being upgraded in a partnership between Telstra and JC Decaux, which could deliver $1 billion in OOH advertising across Australia.
JCDecaux and Telstra argue the upgraded digital panels fall under the federal Telecommunications Act criteria for low-impact facilities, which makes them exempt from state and local council regulation.
Mulhern said: “Because we operate a national payphone network, we think the best path is to ask the Federal Court to decide whether our new payphones are a low impact facility, so we have one judgment that applies across Australia.”
However, the upgrades have been a cause for concern amongst the councils who worry they will not be able to control the billboards or receive any revenue.