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Split decision a splitting headache for Joyce

22 Feb 2010

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The Commerce Commission has just flung a piping hot potato at the ICT Minister and his first reaction is to cool the issue with call for submissions. Welcome to another round in the battle over whether mobile termination rates should be regulated.

After years of submissions, cross-submissions and conferences dedicated to the issue of whether Mobile Termination Rates - the fee the mobile network owners charge each other to terminate calls on each other’s networks – should be regulated, the Commerce Commission has come out with a split decision.

One commissioner is in favour of regulation, two commissioners are not.

Surprisingly the Telecommunications Commissioner Ross Patterson is against regulation. It's thanks to him the whole issue got dragged up again when in 2008 he invited all interested parties to submit on mobile termination rates.

The issue had been dealt with by Minister for Economic Development Trevor Mallard, who had come to a commercial deal with Vodafone and Telecom, a decision that neither 2degrees (or NZ Communications as it was then) nor TUANZ was happy about at the time. So when Patterson opened it up for discussion, the two organisations jumped at the chance. [It is here that I must declare a conflict of interest as at the time I was Policy and Communications Manager at TUANZ and drafted its submission. Shortly after this I left TUANZ, and resumed a journalism career six months later.]

Patterson then took leave of absence, and it appeared Commissioner Anita Mazzaleni was doing the heavy lifting in the telco space until he returned to the post last year and the issue on whether MTRs should be regulated came back into prominence. Interestingly it is Mazzaleni who is standing firm on regulation today. Meanwhile Patterson and Commissioner Gowan Pickering are recommending that Vodafone’s and Telecom’s final commercial undertakings be accepted.

So now it’s up to ICT Minister Steven Joyce to make the call. A National minister from a private enterprise background is set to rule on a piece of regulation in the face of commercial undertakings that two out of three commissioners support. He has immediately called for written submissions.

“While I do not intend to re-open issues that parties have already had the opportunity to raise with the regulator, I am inviting comments on any matters raised in the report that were not, and could not have been, raised in previous submissions to the Commission, and on any relevant information that is not addressed in the Commission’s report,” says Joyce.

“I would like to thank the Commission for its hard work in preparing its report. I will make a decision upon consideration of the report, submissions, and advice from officials.  It is my intention to do this in a timely manner.”

Hit thislink to view the Commerce Commission recommendation.