NZ minister introduces bill to bring telecoms into the 21st century

NZ minister introduces bill to bring telecoms into the 21st century

New Zealand’s communications minister Simon Bridges introduced a Bill to Parliament today to modernise the country’s telecommunications regulatory framework, bringing it into the 21st century.

The Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill, which is the outcome of an extensive consultation process that was undertaken between 2015 and 2017, seeks to bring the regulatory pricing regime for fibre and copper line infrastructure in line with their electricity and gas distribution counterparts. It supports the shift to fibre and removing copper regulation from 2020.

The Bill introduces a more predictable utility regulation model for ultra-fast broadband (UFB) fibre, deregulates copper lines where fibre is available, and includes measures that will improve the quality of service for consumers by increasing regulatory oversight.

“The telecommunications market is changing, with new technologies, shifting consumer behaviour and evolving business models. Alongside this, consumers have vastly improved connectivity through the Government’s $2 billion rollout of world-leading communications infrastructure, with more to come,” said Bridges. “We need to ensure the regulatory settings continue to be fit-for-purpose and support the evolution of this fast-moving sector.”

Bridges added: “The Bill supports the shift to fibre as the technology of choice among an increasing number of consumers, by establishing a stable and predictable framework for regulating fibre and by removing copper regulation from 2020. To ensure that consumers are protected, copper will continue to be regulated outside of fibre coverage areas. Safeguards will make sure that customers do not lose their copper landline or broadband unless there is an alternative service available at a comparable price and service level.”

The Bill introduces a number of other changes that are aimed at lifting consumer service quality in the telecommunications sector, including: requiring the Commerce Commission to regularly report on retail service quality in a more accessible way and to review the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Service regularly to ensure it is working effectively.

The Commission will also be able to make codes that address retail service quality, if the industry fails to develop industry-led codes that are adequate.

“These changes are intended to enhance industry responsiveness to consumer needs. Telecommunications services are a vital part of everyday life and business in New Zealand, and the level of service needs to reflect this,” added Bridges.

The Bill is set down for its first reading this month.

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