Telco Bill debate goes on

InternetNZ and TUANZ decided not to pursue the matters, but the hired guns continue to sling it out

A live debate is to take place in Wellington on October 16 between the authors of opposing submissions on the Telecommunications Amendment Bill.

But InternetNZ and TUANZ, who originally brought in two economists to rebut Victoria University’s Bronwyn Howell’s comments on the proposed reforms, will not be lending their support.

“We’re not particularly keen to pursue it any further,” says InternetNZ executive director Keith Davidson. “We got the reports [disputing Howell’s contentions] … To prolong the issue would be pointless.”

In her submission, Howell says there is no clear overseas evidence that unbundling the local loop leads to increased broadband penetration or that increased broadband take-up has a noticeable effect on a country’s gross domestic product.

But last week, in response to Small’s and Valletti’s rebuttal, she said her report was “never meant to be a detailed academic analysis of the relationship between broadband penetration and unbundling”, so to criticise it for lack of rigour “completely misses the point”.

So, will the live debate feature more rigorous analysis? “In the context of a speech that’s only 20 minutes long it’s difficult to introduce much rigour,” says Howell. “It’s enough that different perspectives can be aired that were not originally put before the select committee.”

She believes the two positions will turn out to be quite close once the uncertainty of the field is acknowledged.

Small promises the debate will avoid the rarefied. “I’ll try and make it as accessible as I can. It should be fun.”

The debate will be held at Victoria University.

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