Swain ready to knock heads together over industry forum

Paul Swain is giving the telecommunications industry one last chance to establish an industry forum before he starts 'banging heads together'.

Paul Swain is giving the telecommunications industry one last chance to establish an industry forum before he starts "banging heads together".

Part of the Telecommunications Act includes the creation of an industry forum to put into practice any recommendations the newly appointed commissioner may make. Telecom, TelstraClear, Vodafone and the Users Association (TUANZ) have met on several occasions in the past year but have been unable to work through issues surrounding the forum's creation.

"They have been dragging the chain on this and I've said I want that to be a self regulatory body, but I've said to them that if they don't sort it out then we're going to have to." Swain says he is reluctant to step in but if his hand is forced he will.

"My view is that it's better for the industry to resolve it than for the government because ours will be a second-best solution, no doubt about it."

Swain continues to defend the newly minted Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO) which replaces the Kiwi Share Obligation under which Telecom was required, among other things, to provide free local calls for residential customers.

"This is a base level obligation on Telecom and I've looked at a number of other countries around the world and none are as strong as this agreement is."

Under the new TSO, Telecom is required to provide at least 14.4kbit/s dial-up connection speed to 95% of the country. The TSO also splits voice calls off from data calls for the first time.

"There were two solutions to this problem; either we settle it in the courts and Telecom had its legal opinion and we had ours, or we come up with a new agreement and we chose to go down that path." Swain says in Australia the base speed for the incumbent telco is only 2kbit/s.

"This is only the beginning of the process, not the end and I'm sure we'll learn more over the coming months and have to fine tune the whole thing but this is a good solid platform to work from."

Swain also defended the continuation of Telecom's right to increase the line rental charge by up to the level of inflation each year.

"This year we'll see more competition at the network level and that will force Telecom to look to reduce costs for the end users wherever it has direct competition." Swain says he expects BCL, the broadcast arm of Television New Zealand, to also make more waves this year as it moves to become a provider of wireless access to remote parts of New Zealand.

"By the middle of the year you should see more coming out of BCL than we have so far."

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