Public submissions support unbundling

The submissions deadline on the telecommunications commissioner's local loop unbundling report, which was today, has been extended to October 29.

The submissions deadline on the telecommunications commissioner's local loop unbundling report, which was today, has been extended to October 29.

It follows a late change to the commissioner's draft ruling.

Changes to the cost benefit analysis were made after "interested parties" requested clarification on some points. The Commerce Commission says the changes will reduce its estimate of the value of unbundling but don't affect its recommendation that the government introduce unbundling.

"The material includes adjustments to the figures reported in the commission's draft report. While the adjustments reduce some of the benefits reported, the net benefits remain substantially positive," the commission says in a written statement. The commission now puts the benefit to end users at $67.5 million after removing the Auckland and Wellington metropolitan areas, which it says already are competitive, and reducing the overall estimate by 25% to make allowances for errors in assumptions.

Several individuals have already made public submissions to the commissioner on the issue, all in support of the move to unbundle.

Roelant Hofmans, who has recently moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands, says he was astounded by the prices paid here for telecommunications.

"For an economy as isolated as NZ's I believe it is imperative that all Kiwis have access to cheap or free internet [access]." Hofmans says he has witnessed the changes to Dutch pricing after unbundling.

"There is now a wide range of carriers, applied technologies and choices for customers ranging from free and slow to competitively priced fast access plans."

Canterbury-based Steve Massey offers a rural user's perspective in welcoming the draft determination's recommendation but being keen to see the ruling extended to "Telecom's remaining monopolies".

"I know from experience how difficult it is to get inequities corrected when appropriate legal mechanisms are not in place."

Massey says he and his neighbours have paid to have lines laid to their premises.

"Recently the charge for this was about $60, then it went up to $1500 and now it stands at $500." He also questions why the commission's report does not address the issue of future infrastructure developments. "The draft report doesn't address Telecom's responsibility to provide new infrastructure at a reasonable price."

Massey would like to see Telecom required to offer new lines at a flat rate to both urban and rural users alike, or have the provisioning of new lines opened up to competition.

Ex-pat Alistair Lane, who has recently returned from London but continues to work for a UK company, believes unbundling and the resulting competition will be good for the national communications industry, "and, from there, the entire NZ tech industry". Lane says trying to explain New Zealand's telecommunications charging and availability to colleagues in Europe was something of "an embarrassment".

Hamilton-based Sam Fickling, a self-described "residential and commercial broadband user", submits that Telecom's current attitude to broadband rollout is unlikely to change without substantial competition.

"Its position also gives Telecom no reason or motivation to improve either its products or its pricing."

Fickling compares Telecom's position on broadband to the toll call market before Clear's arrival.

"The variety of toll packages and low charges that we as consumers experience today are, in my opinion, solely due to Clear's market presence."

The commission will hold a conference on the matter from November 11 to 14. A final report will be handed to government by December 20.

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