Provisioning problems provoke law change

Telco Act review in part in response to problems with provisioning of broadband

The caretaker Labour government says it will act on the issue of UBS provisioning if it is able to form a government.

As reported in Computerworld last week (October 10) a number of customers claim Telecom is giving priority to provisioning broadband connections through its retail ISP Xtra ahead of connections through its wholesale service.

David Cunliffe, caretaker minister of communications, says the government recognises there is an issue with UBS provisioning. “The previous government recognises there is an issue and that is one of the reasons for initiating the Telecommunications Act review which is aimed at providing a set of tools for the Commerce Commission to more effectively deal with the types of difficulties encountered with the implementation of a regulated UBS service.

”Some of these measures include the ability for the commission to set and enforce the terms of any determinations, including provisions for penalties.

Commenting on the two specific cases raised in Computerworld’s article, Chris Dyhrberg, head of wholesale marketing, says Telecom stands by its customer service commitment. Dyhrberg says Telecom is currently processing almost 2,000 wholesale broadband connections per week and states it has had very few provisioning errors. He adds that wholesale service providers have access to an online checking tool which helps them to establish the availiability of DSL in a particular area.

The case of Mark Winter, for whom Ihug’s application was refused, but who obtained service from Xtra only a couple of days later, Dyhrberg says that Telecom is aware that “issues of this nature happen from time to time”.

However, he says it isn’t solely a wholesale problem and doesn’t believe it is a “systematic issue”. In the second case of Brendon O’Connor, who had to wait for two months after Telecom rejected Ihug’s request to supply him with UBS, Dyhrberg says Telecom has to ask providers who send inaccurate information to resubmit applications for broadband.

He adds that Telecom’s operating procedures provide a rejection code which shows the reason why the application was rejected. Dyhrberg says the time taken to investigate incorrect orders can be considerable and that it is the service provider’s job to provide the correct customer information.

Telecom is rolling out a business-to-business interface to its provisioning system, Dyhrberg says, in an effort to streamline the provisioning process and eliminate errors.

Asked to comment on O’Connor’s complaint about his and Winter’s UBS provisioning, Commission spokeswoman Kate Camp says the regulator has been contacted “at various times” by consumers experiencing delays in getting broadband connections.

However, Camp says that the commission will only be concerned over the delays if they reduce competition in the long term, to the detriment of consumers. The provisioning issue will only be investigated under the Commerce Act 1986 if it can be shown that Telecom is taking advantage of substantial degree of market power for anti-competitive purposes, Camp says. However, she adds that “even if Telecom is deliberately prioritising provisioning of Xtra over other ISPs, then assuming Telecom has a substantial degree of market power, to contravene the act it has to be doing something that a person otherwise in the same position as Telecom, but without Telecom’s substantial degree of market power would not do.” Camp says this isn’t clear at the moment.

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