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Commerce Commission finalises consumer protections for withdrawal of copper phone and broadband services

The Commerce Commission has finalised its Copper Withdrawal Code. 

The code sets out the requirements Chorus, the provider of New Zealand's copper telecommunications network, must meet before it can stop providing wholesale copper phone and broadband services, including ADSL and VDSL. 

The Commission says by 2022, most New Zealanders are expected to have access to fibre at home, which means large parts of the traditional copper phone and broadband network will no longer be needed. The Commission has designed the Copper Withdrawal Code to protect consumers during the transition from copper to faster and more reliable technologies such as fibre.

"The fibre network build in New Zealand has been a significant success and we want to make sure the transition off the old copper network is as smooth as possible over the next few years," says Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson.

"We recognise that some consumers are nervous about this change and it's important to emphasise that Chorus can only stop supplying copper services where households can access the same services over the fibre network," he says.

"In areas where fibre is not currently available, Chorus must continue to supply copper services." 

Gilbertson says there are protections in the Code to ensure consumers are not left without access to the telecommunications services they need. 

Consumers will also get at least six months notice of any change. Chorus must provide consumers with the information they need to understand the transition and, if they order a fibre service, have it installed at their home before copper services can be stopped.

Chorus can begin notifying consumers of its intention to stop supplying copper services in areas where fibre is available once the Code takes effect on 1 March 2021. The earliest Chorus could then stop supplying copper services is September 2021.

Consumers can complain to the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Service (TDRS) if Chorus is not complying with the code. The TDRS provides independent resolution of consumer disputes with telecommunications providers.

The Commerce Commission regulates New Zealand's telecommunications providers and can set industry guidelines and rules. Under the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Act, it is required to create a Copper Withdrawal Code by 1 January 2022.  

As part of the transition to fibre, the Commission regularly identifies and declares Specified Fibre Areas (SFAs) the specific locations where under the code Chorus will be able to stop providing copper-based phone and internet services, because fibre is available and it complies with the protections set out in the code.

The SFAs were updated in November this year and now cover approximately 1.5 million households and businesses, mainly in major cities and larger towns across New Zealand.