Govt to develop regulation on broadband products

ICT Minister Amy Adams says consumers need better info with the rollout of Ultra Fast Broadband

The government is looking to regulate the way telcos provide broadband product information to consumers.

In a media statement today, ICT Minister Amy Adams says she has asked the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to work on a "regulation framework, which could include, among other things, enhanced disclosure requirements for matters such as the total cost of a service, broadband speed, data caps and contract lengths".

She says that with the rollout of the Ultra Fast Broadband network, "consumers will need a clear foundation on which to consider and compare broadband offerings."

"While my initial focus is on residential broadband services, I would anticipate that transparency in other communications services could be included in this work programme in due course," she says.

The Telecommunications Forum has begun work on a code of practice in this area. A TCF working party called the Broadband Product Disclosure Working Party and a code is likely to be available for public consultation early 2013.

Adams has welcomed the move by the TCF. "At this time, I consider there is merit in the Forum's code of practice occurring in parallel with the development of a proposed regulatory framework."

Last week, Adams told Computerworld that better oversight of broadband pricing is required.

"My view is that technology is moving out of the ambit of just tech heads who understand this stuff. I always think of my 70-year old mother with her iPad and trying to work out her data packages. She can't understand what she's buying and what she's using and how it all works and what the speed is and how to compare. Particularly as we start to get this plethora of fibre offerings in the market, I want her to say 'which one works for me, what am I getting if I go with that one'."

But Adams rejected the idea of a separate government agency set up to deal with complaints from telcos.

"I don't think we need another government department. We've already got the ministry of consumer affairs, the Fair Trading Act and the structures around that. What we've got to make sure is that it's properly reflective of products as they come into the market. The Fair Trading Act wasn't designed for things like broadband speeds and telco products. But rather than create a whole new bureaucracy, I think we just have to update the structures we have to make sure they are fit for purpose."

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