Monday, 26 November 2018 10:19

Broadband consumer protections a priority with NZ changeover from copper to fibre

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Broadband consumer protections a priority with NZ changeover from copper to fibre Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Zealand's competition enforcement and regulatory agency, the Commerce Commission, is undertaking public consultations on the consumer protections and proposed process that will regulate the changeover from copper to fibre on the county’s broadband network.

The Commission is seeking feedback ahead of when New Zealand's largest telecommunications infrastructure provider, Chorus, can stop providing copper-based voice and broadband services in areas where fibre broadband is available.

“As fibre services become available across most areas in New Zealand, consumers are likely to make the switch from copper to fibre, making the copper network more costly for Chorus to maintain,” said Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale.

“Recent legislative changes will therefore allow Chorus to transition the remaining copper consumers to fibre from 2020.

“There are consumer protections built into this process. To ensure consumers are not disadvantaged, we will be developing a copper withdrawal code that sets out the rules that must be followed before Chorus can stop providing copper services in neighbourhoods where fibre is available.”

The Commission says the code will require that before the copper service can be withdrawn an equivalent fibre service is readily available at no additional cost to the consumer, and Chorus will also have to provide information about available fibre services and give adequate notice of the withdrawal.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission says Chorus cannot stop providing these copper services until it meets all the consumer protections that will be in the copper withdrawal code, and one further component will be a "Commission 111 contact code" that will require retailers to ensure that "vulnerable consumers" have — at no cost — an appropriate means of contacting 111 for emergency services in the event of a power outage.   

Under the regulatory changes, the earliest Chorus can stop providing copper services will be 1 January 2020 – and only once all the conditions are met.

The Commission said on Monday it wants to hear from industry participants as well as consumer groups on its proposed approach to identifying the areas where fibre services are clearly available and if there are any additional provisions the Commission should include in the copper withdrawal code.

Submissions on the fibre areas process and issues paper close on 8 February 2019, and submissions on the copper withdrawal code close on 14 February 2019, with cross-submissions on the copper withdrawal code closing on 6 March 2019.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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