Auckland Chamber of Commerce calls for unbundling

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce has announced it supports calls for Telecom's local loop to be unbundled, but Telecom is cynical about the survey that support is based on.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce has announced it supports calls for Telecom's local loop to be unbundled, but Telecom is cynical about the survey that support is based on.

The chamber commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 400 of its members about the unbundling issue and the results show an "overwhelming demand by business for increased choice in telecommunications over local phone lines".

The survey results, and the chamber's endorsement, come several months after public submissions closed on the issue. The Commerce Commission's final report recommending against unbundling is with Minister of Communications Paul Swain and he will be discussing its recommendations with cabinet later this month.

Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett says the society wanted to discuss the matter with its members before announcing a position.

"The chamber undertook the survey because we had been asked to make a submission by groups on both sides of the unbundling debate, but unlike a number of other business groups, we decided to determine the views of members before commenting publicly" says Barnett in a written statement.

Ninety-three percent of respondents say they would be more likely to use more telecommunications services if they were better priced and marketed; 94% believe a range of companies offering different phone, data and high-speed internet services will be better for their business; and more than 95% believe the Auckland economy will be better off having a choice of suppliers of phone, data and high-speed internet services.

Telecom's general manager for government relations Bruce Parkes rubbishes the findings, saying the survey questions were too leading.

"There was little chance of getting any other result I would have thought. This thing has no credibility whatsoever."

Parkes points to the phrasing on one particular question as indicative of the whole survey.

"Question two, for example, starts off with this statement: 'In Australia the local loop was unbundled allowing true competition. A number of companies are now offering telco services in competition. These companies are offering products that can save business up to 40% of their calling costs'." Then, says Parkes, the survey asks respondents to chose between “Telecom retains control of the local loop and other companies cannot offer services to Auckland businesses" or "the local loop is unbundled and a variety of competitors have the ability to offer a range of prices and services to all Auckland businesses."

"With that sort of leading information and then giving two choices written like that, what's the point of even having a survey?"

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