Joyce says the Maori Party didn't force telco bill change

Decision on private partners for lion's share of UFB not this week

ICT Minister Steven Joyce says the Maori Party would have voted for the Telecommunications Amendment Bill if the regulatory forbearance period had remained.

“They indicated their support that we’d work together positively, we both knew this was an issue that was unresolved but they hadn’t made it contingent on their support,” he told Computerworld.

“It wasn’t a case of either side holding guns to each other’s heads, it was a case that we both recognised that if we could find a better way we would do it, so they were helpful in that respect.”

Joyce says his officials have spent a few days working on replacing the regulatory forbearance period with “contractual mechanisms”. Crown Fibre Holdings have spoken to the bidders in the Ultra Fast Broadband network.

“They have socialised with the various bidders and they’ve advised us they don’t consider it an issue because in practice it won’t be a significant change to the bidders. On the one hand they were going to get regulatory forbearance, on the other hand they’ve got this contractual mechanism so it wouldn’t make any difference to them,” he says.

Yesterday officials had “targeted discussions” with industry stakeholders about the change, which Joyce says has been largely met with approval. He noted that InternetNZ put out a statement today claiming the contractual mechanism concept is superior to the special access undertakings regime that had been suggested by a group of eleven consumer groups and telcos.

Telecom also released a statement in which CEO Paul Reynolds says he is comfortable with the change. “It should “provide investors with the necessary degree of certainty while also ensuring the industry is comfortable with the level of regulatory oversight.”

Joyce aims to get the Bill passed by the end of June. However before that can happen, CFH must announce who it will partner with on the remaining 80 percent of the UFB build. He says CFH are close to making a recommendation, but an announcement is unlikely to be this week.

“I would think you’d be on reasonable money to say not this week at this point given the Budget’s tomorrow.”

So next week?

“You will just have to wait and see.”

Whatever the outcome it’s likely the Maori Party will have a role to play in the UFB build. Joyce says he finds their long-term view of how the broadband infrastructure can benefit Maori “refreshing”. He says he isn’t averse to giving Nga Pu Waea, the Maori working party that has oversight over the Rural Broadband Initiative, similar involvement on UFB.

What about spectrum discussions?

“Spectrum discussions aren’t on the table at the moment.”

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Tags Steven Joycemaori partyTelecommunications Amendment Bill

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