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Is it time for govt to intervene over XT?

23 Feb 2010

[UPDATE - Minister's response] After four failures – three of them major outages – is it time for the government to step in on behalf of customers on Telecom’s XT Network?

That’s the question being posed by TUANZ CEO Ernie Newman who last night fired off a strongly worded press statement from Wellington when services on the XT network failed for customers south of Taupo. His reported frustrations over being unable to access voice mails on his Telecom cellphone no doubt adding to his sense of empathy for those XT customers located where all the outages have occurred.“Telecom needs to do something drastic to assist the customers it is repeatedly letting down. If it doesn’t, then it may be time for the government to step in as a national economic issue. This cannot be allowed to go on,” he says.

Telecom sent out a media statement early this morning advising that full service has been restored following the fourth network failure which began around 4pm yesterday. Telecom’s CEO Paul Reynolds will front a media briefing this afternoon but will it be enough? Is it time, as Newman suggests, for ICT Minister Steven Joyce to step in?

UPDATE - Minister responds, Opposition spokesperson weighs into the debate

ICT Minister Steven Joyce last night spoke with Telecom Chief Executive Dr Paul Reynolds about the issues plaguing the company’s XT network, a spokesperson has confirmed to Telecommunications Review, who emailed the following statement:

“As Telecom is a private company, the government has no power to act or intervene but I’ve made it clear to Dr Reynolds that the government is very concerned with the recent spate of outages," Minister Joyce says.

“I am also seeking assurances from the company that arrangements will be urgently made to ensure that emergency 111 calls are answered.

New Zealand’s telecommunications market is a competitive one and I’m sure Telecom is well aware of the effect these ongoing issues will be having on their customers’ confidence.”

In the media advisory issued yesterday, Telecom recommended that XT customers use their landline in an emergency.

Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran has now weighed into the debate, releasing a statement this morning suggesting Minister Steven Joyce should be demanding answers over the XT outages.

“The patience of XT customers has run out and the lack of public confidence in the mobile network requires Steven Joyce to ask some frank questions of Telecom management,” she says.

“The Government has been more than happy to sit back and let customers make up their minds about the quality of Telecom’s XT network, but the unreliability of the network is now an infrastructure issue.”

Minister Joyce has in the past refused to get involved as this statement, from his office following the last major outage makes clear:

“As Telecom is a private company, the Minister does not have the power to intervene or influence their decision... With regard to XT, that was a contractual matter between Telecom and its customers. Again, while he watched developments with interest the Minister is not in a position to intervene in any way. He said publically that if issues aren’t resolved, some customers may start voting with their feet.”

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