12 Apr 2011
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Kiwi telcos and consumer groups fight UFB bill

11 New Zealand telecommunications companies, as well as a selection of consumer advocate groups, have joined forces to oppose the government’s proposed UFB bill.

The group includes Vodafone, 2degrees, TelstraClear, Call Plus, Kordia/Orcon, Opto Network and Torotoro Waea as well as Federated Farmers, Consumer New Zealand, TUANZ, and InternetNZ.

TUANZ Chief Executive, Paul Brislen, says while the group fully supports broadband infrastructure investment, a letter sent to MPs outlines fears that the bill would reduce competition and investment in New Zealand’s telecommunications market.

"Chief among our concerns are the Bill’s proposals to give successful fibre company bidders a ten year ‘holiday’ from regulation, and the removal from the consumer watchdog Commerce Commission of any oversight of prices and services until 2020.

"In our view the regulatory holiday should be scrapped or at the least substantially modified, and the consumers’ champion - the Commerce Commission - should be allowed to do its job.”

Brislen says the bill would also allow Telecom to create a new, wholesale monopoly when it was separated into two businesses.

"In our view, there must be more checks and balances on how Telecom separates and the new monopoly that is created,” he said.

The group says there is nothing in the legislation to prevent fibre companies from increasing prices and degrading services, and regulatory holidays are  banned in the European Union and by the WTO.

"If there is no issue, why deliberately legislate to prevent the Commerce Commission from doing its job?” Brislen concluded.

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