Govt, Telecom acts debated at AGM

InternetNZ will continue pressure to ensure Telecom lives up to its word on unbundling and structural separation, says president

InternetNZ patted itself on the back at its recent annual general meeting, for having influenced the recent change of approach from Telecom that indicates a more positive attitude to wholesale and retail separation following unbundling.

But there was a lot of scepticism, too.

“Talk is cheap,” said president Colin Jackson, referring to Telecom’s statements. InternetNZ will continue to apply pressure through the parliamentary process and other routes to ensure Telecom lives up to its promise and gives rival wholesale customers a fair go, he says.

During the report of the .nz oversight committee (NZOC), Frank March, a Ministry of Economic Development staffer and chair of the NZOC, told the AGM that the government is expressing more interest in the way New Zealand’s internet infrastructure works, and InternetNZ may in due course be questioned on the history of and justification for its role as sole .nz manager. His dual position may in time become untenable, March told the meeting, and he may have to give up one of his roles.

The AGM was also told that, although growth in internet use in New Zealand is beginning to level out, registration of domain names is still rising at an accelerating rate.

However, it was Telecom and the new regulatory regime that held most interest for AGM participants.

“Don’t rely on a new and changed Telecom,” said consultant Alick Wilson.

“We must continue our push for regulation.”

At the same time, Wilson cast doubt on whether Telecom will be able to perform in the broadband area. There are signs that, by placing a lot of reliance on its infrastructure provider Alcatel and other support companies, it has outsourced too much to be able to retain adequate control of its infrastructure and services, he says.

Alcatel was the source of a recent report which was sceptical of the Telecom network’s capacity to accommodate broadband for a large number of customers — a report that has now been published on Telecom’s website.

“It’s hard to say what their motive was for that,” says Wilson. “Unless it’s to signal ‘We can’t provide an efficient service’. I applaud the openness that’s suggested here but, we must remember, it’s still a game.”

However, a source close to Telecom said people should not forget Alcatel’s role here.

It would be natural for an infrastructure provider to cast doubt on existing facilities, he noted, as it would be likely to bring it more business.

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