Labour says power companies could outflank UFB2 rollout

Labour’s ICT spokesperson, Clare Curran, said a new law before Parliament would allow electricity lines companies to string broadband fibre along electricity lines

Labour has flagged the possibility of Chorus, and other beneficiaries of the Government’s $300m extension to the UFB network announced on 26 January, being outflanked by powerline companies, if legislation before Parliament becomes law.

Labour’s ICT spokesperson, Clare Curran, said a new law before Parliament would allow electricity lines companies to string broadband fibre along electricity lines, which will enable immediate regional development opportunities for all of rural New Zealand.

“[The law] will likely pass through the rest of its stages to become law early next year,” she said. “As a result, Chorus may now find itself outflanked by electricity lines companies eager to deliver fibre faster for their regions than the state programme’s timetable.”

She added: “What is the point of Chorus being subsidised to inefficiently overbuild fibre where smaller, more agile providers have already laid fibre or have announced their intention to do so? ... The UFB2 roll-out looks good on paper but it may prove to be a white elephant as competitors move to deliver a better service than a trouble-plagued and stalled Government programme.”

The law in question is the Telecommunications (Property Access and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. It had its first reading in July 016 and was then passed to the Commerce Committee for review. The Committee submitted its interim report on 3 November.

As Computerworld reported, the committee’s report included a proposal that power companies be allowed to deploy fibre on their existing infrastructure on private property without having to negotiate new access rights: they would be able to use existing rights. Those recommendations have now been incorporated in the bar-2 Bill.

Curran said: “The new law is not existing Government policy and occurred through a Select Committee process driven by the opposition parties, right under the nose of the minister while negotiations for the UFB2 were stalled.”

She concluded: “The fact is that other competitors are likely to deliver fibre faster than the state-funded programme, which leaves taxpayers asking whether this money is well spent.”

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