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Government announces telco reform

NZN 31/05/2017

Changes to the Telecommunication Act have been described as a "mixed bag" by an internet watchdog.

Communications Minister Simon Bridges on Thursday released the final details of the government's reform package to improve the Act and modernise the communications sector.

The aim was to deregulate the copper network by 2020, introduce a more predictable utility-style model for ultra-fast broadband and improve oversight from the Commerce Commission to protect consumers, he said.

"UFB is already available to more than one million homes and businesses in New Zealand, and over 85 per cent of New Zealanders will be able to access the high speed network by 2024.

"As the copper network is essentially being replaced by UFB, it is appropriate that copper regulation be removed from 2020 - it makes sense to focus on the services that most people will be using."

But InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter says there are good and bad points among the Act's changes.

The initial take was the changes were a mixed bag for consumers, he said.

"The new proactive powers for the Commerce Commission, to ask tough questions about the quality of service people can expect, are good to see, [but] on the down side, tweaks and adjustments to the post-2020 framework will see more money go into Chorus' hands from users of copper broadband services outside the fibre broadband area.

"That means slightly higher broadband prices."

Under the new system, UFB providers will have to disclose information about their revenues and costs publicly. Telecommunications network operator Chorus will also be subject to a revenue cap from 2020 and local fibre companies will face competition from copper and cable, but can be regulated if problems arise.

Chorus said it welcomed the process.

"The right regulatory settings for broadband connectivity, which sensibly support efficient investment without costly duplication of utility infrastructure, will ultimately deliver better quality and greater affordability for all Kiwis," said Vanessa Oakley.

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