Communications minister Simon Bridges has revealed final details of the Government's telecommunications reforms, expected to come into force from 2020, saying they will introduce a more predictable utility-style model for Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre, deregulate copper lines where fibre is available, and improve the quality of service for consumers by increasing regulatory oversight.
Release of the details follows the issue of an options paper in July 2016. This was followed with the release of a consultation paper in February 2017 setting out details of how the government proposed to regulate access to the copper telephone network beyond 2020.
Under the new regime, where fibre is available, copper lines will be deregulated from 2020. Where fibre is not available (in rural areas), copper lines will continue to be regulated.
To complement the fixed line regulatory reform, the Government says it will streamline regulatory processes for mobile regulation. It has also decided to augment consumer safeguards and to provide more regulatory oversight of retail quality standards and dispute resolution processes.
Bridges said the changes should lift the level of consumer service quality in the telecommunications sector. "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."
He said the reforms would reduce compliance costs for industry and further encourage innovation and investment, for the long-term benefit of consumers.
"A mixed bag" says Internet NZ
Internet NZ has described the package as "a mixed bag for Internet users." CEO Jordan Carter said: "There are some wins for the public here. The new proactive powers for the Commerce Commission to ask tough questions about the quality of service people can expect are good to see. There are too many complaints by consumers in the telco sector and it has to change.
"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."
He added: "Another downside: the government is still proposing that today's entry-level broadband product (100/20) can serve as an 'anchor product' in 2020. It was too slow last time they proposed it, and it's too slow today."
Spark is supportive
Spark's response was less equivocal. It welcomed the outcome with general manager regulatory affairs, John Wesley-Smith, saying it had provided certainty to industry providers and their customers of the regulatory settings that will apply to fibre and copper in the period from 2020 onwards.
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