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Top five telco issues that need sorting

Sarah Putt | June 28, 2013
Sarah Putt looks at the some of the hot button telco issues likely to be addressed in two upcoming government review.

Meanwhile there is $15 million set aside in the government coffers — which has been floating around since David Cunliffe was ICT minister — for any company looking to build an a new undersea cable to the US and Australia.

Telco and broadcasting tensions
There was a blaze of publicity greeting news that Coliseum Sports Media had outbid Sky TV for the broadcast rights to the English Premier League (EPL) last month. The company has launched PremierLeaguePass.com, and will offer a season pass for $150, with games able to be watched on a computer, tablet or smartphone, as well as old-fashioned television.

Sky TV's share price faltered on the news, and several pundits were picking the beginning of the end of Sky TV's monopoly on pay TV.

Not so fast.

Last year a movie-on-demand company Quickflix presented a similar challenge. And despite the hoopla, its content proved equally as niche, and it has provided scant competition.

Meanwhile, Sky TV is waiting for the outcome of a Commerce Commission investigation into its contracts with internet service providers, which has been underway for a year.

ICT lawyer Michael Wigley has speculated that the entry of Coliseum Sports Media plays into Sky TV's hands because it provides the illusion of competition.

One thing that is clear, is the growing convergence between telecommunications and broadcasting. Whoever forms the next government may finally recognise this and combine the ministerial portfolios rather than keeping them separate.

Rural access
New Zealand's primary industries are responsible for a large portion of the country's wealth — they account for 71 percent of the country's mercantile exports (that is actual products, rather than services). So there is a strong argument for ensuring the rural community is well-served by telecommunication services.

The right to a decent phone service, wherever you live, has been protected by New Zealand law under the Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO) since Telecom was sold into private hands in 1990.

But what about broadband access — is it necessary for the health and wealth of rural communities? With the advent of over-the-top services such as Skype, social media and online trading, you could argue that broadband is an essential service for rural people.

On the other hand, as the telcos always pass their obligations onto customers, is it fair that those living in poor urban areas should subsidise the internet bills of wealthy rural farmers?

 

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