Telecommunications Users Association boss Ernie Newman will this week meet telco commissioner Douglas Webb to discuss his shock recommendation not to unbundle the local phone loop.
Newman says he’s deeply disappointed by the conclusion in Webb’s December report to government on unbundling, which reversed the recommendation of an earlier report.
“We are surprised and taken aback by the reversal and we’re struggling to find content in the final report to explain why such a dramatic change of recommendation has taken place.”
Immediately before Webb made his recommendation known, Newman told Computerworld TUANZ had “ticked unbundling off” its to-do list.
Webb has been investigating whether Telecom should be forced to unbundle its local loop network and in his September draft report supported the view that it should. His final report, however — released just before Christmas — instead proposed a limited wholesaling environment.
TUANZ isn’t alone in its disappointment.
Auckland-based ISP Ihug’s chief executive, Martin Wylie, a former senior Telecom executive, says he was stunned by Webb’s change of heart.
“How on earth did they get from the draft decision to this decision? What is the evidence that took them from A to B? If he believes this why did he write the [draft] report in the first place and if there is ‘new evidence’ that says he was wrong, what the hell is it?”
Wylie says the only real argument against unbundling came from those new entrants building their own networks, such as BCL or Woosh Wireless, and he believes their arguments are flawed.
“These guys are saying, ‘We’ve made investments in a new technology that may or may not work and you have to protect us because if the price goes down we’ll be out of business.”
InternetNZ executive director Peter Macaulay says the failure to introduce unbundling will slow broadband uptake in the short term.
“It definitely raises the barriers to entry for other telcos wishing to offer broadband.”
Macaulay says InternetNZ’s position is simple: broadband should be available to every home in New Zealand and he doesn’t care how it happens.
“Unbundled, separate network build out — it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s made available”.
Wylie says the proposed DSL wholesale regime is badly thought out and will do nothing to boost the uptake rate of broadband in New Zealand.
“We’ll spend the next 18 months debating where the edges of the service lie and who’s got control over what, and at the end of the day we’ll be no better off than we are now.”
Neither Webb nor relevant government ministers will comment on the final report. Telecommunications minister Paul Swain has called for submissions on new issues raised in it and will report to cabinet in May.