Swain lets Telecom off disclosure hook

Telecom appears to have been granted a stay of execution over its failure to disclose its earnings from the local loop by minister of communications Paul Swain.

Telecom appears to have been granted a stay of execution over its failure to disclose its earnings from the local loop by minister of communications Paul Swain.

“We must look at this in light of the telecommunications inquiry and its findings and any new regime which Telecom will be part of.”

Telecom was required to report both the cost of rural users and the earnings from its ownership of the local loop. While Telecom was happy to report the first half of the equation, claiming it is “subsidising 380,000 mainly rural and small-town customers to the tune of $167 million a year”, it declined to report the earnings it makes from the network, claiming the maths involved were too complex for it to meet the deadline.

The Ministry of Economic Development has assessed Telecom’s reasons for not fulfilling its requirements under the Telecommunications (Information Disclosure) Regulations 1999 and has reported to the minister. Telecom has stated it intends to abide by the law and will “publicly issue meaningful information early next year”.

But the minister seems to have given Telecom the all-clear for now, preferring to bundle his response to the matter in with the government’s response to the telecommunication inquiry team’s report.

“That report says we should designate interconnection agreements and that would cover this kind of disclosure, making it more of a commercial agreement between companies.” Swain says the information disclosure act was the final response of an “extremely light-handed regime”. He hopes the new regime ushered in by the telecommunications inquiry will prove more robust and it would over-ride the act.

“We don’t want to set up something that precludes investment in this fast growing area.” Swain hopes to make public the government’s response to the report in the middle of December. Any decision on Telecom’s disclosure would be announced then. Telecom risks a fine of $200,000, plus $10,000 for every day it fails to comply.

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