NZ Govt considers scrapping telco obligations

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NZ Govt considers scrapping telco obligations

Focus shifts from copper to fibre.

The New Zealand Government is planning to bring telecommunications legislation in line with current technology, looking at setting new minimum internet speeds and placing caps on line connection fees.

NZ Communications Minister Amy Adams released a discussion paper (pdf) flagging changes to the country's Telecommunications Service Obligations, ranging from no action to significant reforms.

The current TSO locks NZ's biggest telco Telecom into offering copper-based networks, despite New Zealand’s rollout of ultrafast fibre.

It requires Telecom to provide New Zealanders with a continued service of voice calls, dial-up internet and dial-up faxes, monthly line rental charges that do not increase by more than the Consumer Price Index, free local calls, and a listing in the White Pages telephone book.

This is despite a growing number of New Zealanders shunning fixed lines, with around 13 percent having no fixed line connection in 2012, and the number of dial-up connections to the internet falling from over 600,000 households in 2006 to around 100,000 this year.

The discussion paper flags removing the requirement to provide dial-up internet and fax services, and replacing it with 
a requirement to provide access to the internet, and replacing the CPI as the index for maximum 
increases in the monthly line rental.

Another option presented would see the TSO only applied to areas that need it, such as remote rural communities or areas where there is insufficient competition.

The paper has been welcomed by Telecom.

“The telecommunications landscape has changed enormously in recent years, driven by extended take-up and coverage of fixed and mobile access networks. It makes sense for regulation to better reflect this new technological landscape,” a Telecom spokesperson said in a statement.

The Government is also seeking comment on a potential update to minimum internet speed requirements under the TSO, capping line connection fees, and whether Telecom should be required to provide a White Pages telephone directory to households. 

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