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UFB installs to be faster and less painful, Govt says

23 Feb 16

More parts of the country will have access to ultra fast broadband as the Government announced it will streamline consenting rules to help speed up installation.

Communication Minister Amy Adams says the changes are part of the first phase of the Government’s Land Access Reforms to reduce delays and frustrations with getting properties connected to UFB.

They follow on from the Land Access for Telecommunications Discussion Document released last year.

“The demand for UFB is ramping up with over 18,700 orders in December alone,” says Adams.

“New Zealanders want changes made to make it easier and quicker to connect to UFB,” she says.

“Around 13% of all UFB orders require some form of permission for access to private property shared between neighbours, and around a quarter of these orders are cancelled due to problems obtaining permission,” Adams explains.

According to Adams, the changes will see a tiered consent regime that will provide two new categories of simplified approvals according to the impacts the fibre installation are considered to have on the property.

Those outside these two categories will continue to require consent of all affected owners as currently occurs.

“In making these decisions, the Government has endeavoured to strike the right balance between simplifying consent requirements, while still respecting the rights of property owners,” Adams explains.

“A neighbour at war standoff shouldn’t prevent the rollout of UFB,” she adds.

“A modern, effective and fair land access framework will ensure that people are not prevented from realising the benefits of UFB in situations where their neighbours can’t be contacted, don’t take the time to complete the required paperwork or decline the request due to an unrelated conflict.”

Adams says that at least 80% of orders that require consent could fall within one of the two new categories.

“For these installations, the average time to connect could be halved and issues with the non-response from neighbours resolved,” she explains.

“An alternate disputes resolution process will also be provided to consider any resulting disputes,” she adds. “The scheme will be similar to that which operates in respect of the electricity and gas industries.”

Adams says she has instructed the Parliamentary Counsel Office to start drafting legislation, which will include an expiry date of 1 January 2025 when the UFB build programme will be complete.   

According to Adams, phase two of the Land Access Reforms will look at additional proposals to help people living in multi-unit complexes connect to UFB and the proposal around using existing infrastructure to increase coverage into rural areas.

Announcements around phase two can be expected within a few months.

Information on the tiered consent regime:

Category One Installations:
Methods that have no lasting impacts on property, such as those that only disturb grass or other soft surfaces. For these installations a statutory right will be provided for a network operator to get on with the install after providing five working days’ notice. This is estimated to cover about 37 per cent of installations in shared driveways.

Category Two Installations:
Methods that have some lasting impact on property, such as drilling a cable underground and leaving small pot holes to access the network every 10 metres or so. For these installations neighbours will be provided with a high-level design and given 15 working days to object on a limited number of grounds. If they do not object, they will be deemed to have consented. Category two is estimated to cover off approximately 51 per cent of installations in shared driveways rights of way.

Status Quo:
Remaining 12 per cent of installation methods that are more invasive than these new categories will continue to be subject the existing requirement whereby all parties need to provide their consent.

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