Federated Farmers blasts telcos for no show

Updated: Telecom responds to accusation it didn't front to meeting on rural broadband

Federated Farmers hosted a meeting today on rural broadband solutions, but their guests of honour – Telecom and Vodafone — failed to show up.

Telecom and Vodafone have been named as the preferred bidders in $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative. As revealed in Computerworld earlier today, Federated Farmers had organised a meeting to discuss rural broadband and invited representatives from both telcos along but, according to a media release they were "late withdrawals".

In the release blasting the no-shows, Donald Aubrey, the organisation’s telecommunications spokesperson, says the telcos were given clearance to attend by the Ministry of Economic Development.

“While Telecom and Vodafone may cite “negotiations with the MED”, it’s an argument that holds no water with the MED. It’s an excuse and a poor one at that,” he says in the statement.

“Federated Farmers had specifically spoken to the MED and MED officials had no issue with either Vodafone or Telecom participating in today’s rural broadband solutions meeting. In fact they actively encouraged it.

“Vodafone and Telecom’s refusal to engage with Federated Farmers and the 1.1 million Kiwis deemed rural is not an auspicious start for the $300 million RBI.

“Today’s rural broadband solutions meeting is an excellent example of bringing parties together for the benefit of the rural community.

“Collaboration has been a catch-cry from Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister, the Hon Steven Joyce. In fact, when he shortlisted Telecom and Vodafone he encouraged all parties to talk.

“Is Telecom and Vodafone’s actions today a lesson as to what rural New Zealand may expect from them in the future? I find it wholly unsatisfactory given Minister Joyce encouraged other players to engage with Vodafone and Telecom. That’s what today was aiming to facilitate, but there seems to be a worrying ‘we won, you lost, get over it’ attitude still prevalent.

Telecom responds

Telecom has released the following statement in response to Federated Farmers:

"We’re committed to engaging with the Federated Farmers and do so regularly both formally and informally around a range of issues – including RBI. We have engaged extensively with Federated Farmers as we’ve prepared our RBI proposal and with many of the organisations who attended the Federated Farmers session today," the statement reads.

"We are currently in detailed commercial negotiations with the MED and need to focus on that. We felt it was premature to be discussing details of our proposal in such a forum at this point of the process, particularly given the extensive engagement we have already carried out and will continue to carry out with key rural interests. However, we’re very interested in the outcomes of today’s session and are keen to talk more as part of the open engagement we have with the Federated Farmers as soon as is feasible."

Vodafone has also been asked for comment.

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