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Spark responds to Government's Telco Act review

09 Sep 15

Spark New Zealand has responded to the Telco Act review announcement made this week by the Government.

According to the company, the main thrust of the review should be to ensure industry players have certainty to continue investing in New Zealand’s digital future.

The Government’s discussion document, Regulating Communications for the Future, looks at how the industry should be regulated post 2020.

According to Spark, key issues include how to set the wholesale charges to ensure all service providers pay the monopoly fibre lines to connect their customers to fibre broadband, and the process for eventually switching off the old copper network for broadband and voice services in favour of the new UFB fibre network.

“The most important thing the review needs to do is provide certainty to industry providers and their customers of the regulatory settings that will apply in the period from 2020 onwards,” says John Wesley-Smith, Spark general manager regulation.

“We welcome this comprehensive discussion document and the Government’s commitment to engaging with industry and New Zealanders on these matters well ahead of time.

“Giving service providers and network operators a clear picture of the costs we will face from 2020 on will allow us to focus on ensuring we bring the best of new products, services and innovation to New Zealanders,” he says.

The Government’s review will also look at how the mobile industry is regulated.

“New Zealand is very well served by three mobile service providers who compete aggressively with one another on price, speed and coverage,” says Wesley-Smith.

“As the Government’s discussion document notes, the next challenge for our sector is to ensure our regulatory framework creates the right incentives for mobile operators to extend the next generations of mobile broadband technologies deep into rural New Zealand, and it is timely to review the best way to achieve this,” he says.

The review will also look at issues of ‘convergence’, where previously distinct technologies and industries (like telecommunications and broadcasting) are coming together, and ‘net neutrality’, which has been an issue in some overseas jurisdictions.

“Convergence is great for consumers and means new products and services are springing up all the time. This is creating huge changes in how New Zealanders live, work and play.

“It’s positive that the Government is looking to ensure our regulatory settings are keeping up with the rapid pace of change,” Wesley-Smith says.

“Net neutrality is a high profile issue in the United States but is not such a problem here in New Zealand because our copper and fibre networks are wholesale-only open access networks and we have a strong product disclosure regime. 

“Net neutrality concerns are grounded in the potential for vertically-integrated monopoly network owners to dictate the terms of internet access to content providers and customers.

“Customers in New Zealand have a genuine choice of service provider, which is the ultimate protection against that outcome,” he says.

Spark New Zealand will engage with the Government, its customers and the general public through this review to ensure New Zealand is best placed to take advantage of the digital future, says Wesley-Smith.

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