Govt denies plans to merge telco commissioner's office

Commerce minister Craig Foss denies suggestions by Labour that there are plans to do away with the office of the telco commissioner

Commerce Minister Craig Foss has denied suggestions by Labour ICT spokersperson Clare Curran that there are plans to do away with the office of the telecommunications commissioner.

“There is no plan to merge the telecommunications commissioner’s role into the Commerce Commission,” Foss’s office emailed Computerworld.

Curran raised the idea earlier this week in a press release denouncing the Commission’s decision to the allow the joint venture between TVNZ and Sky TV for the pay TV offering Igloo.

“There are also growing concerns about the possible decision not to re-appoint Ross Patterson as Telecommunications Commissioner,” Curran says.

“Mr Patterson is respected across the industry and a decision not to re-appoint him would send another strong signal that the competition watchdog role was being de-valued.

“There is also speculation that the office of the Telecommunications Commissioner will be merged into the Commerce Commission, further weakening its role. This would be a disaster for the telecommunications industry at a particularly significant time.”

Computerworld approached the Commission for comment and was referred to the Ministry of Economic Development. A spokesperson there also denied Curran’s claims:“We are not aware of any moves to merge the telecommunications commissioner’s role into the Commerce Commission.”

Patterson’s five-year tenure at the Commission is due to expire soon. The role was widely advertised and the final decision as to who will be appointed rests with ICT Minister Amy Adams.

Meanwhile, the Commission announced this week that it will investigate Sky TV’s contracts with internet service providers. The pay TV company has contracts with the four largest ISPs in New Zealand - Telecom, TelstraClear, Vodafone and CallPlus.

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