Industry welcomes commissioner

Newly appointed telecommunications commissioner Douglas Webb once represented Clear Communications in interconnection talks with Telecom.

Newly appointed telecommunications commissioner Douglas Webb once represented Clear Communications in interconnection talks with Telecom.

Webb's appointment was announced last week, ending months of speculation as to who would be first in the role which is established by the Telecommunications Bill.

Creating the position was a recommendation of the Hugh Fletcher telecommunications inquiry.

Webb takes up the job in March, after leaving his present post as the World Bank's managing counsel. He is a former partner with New Zealand law firm Rudd Watts and Stone.

Telecom government and industry relations manager Bruce Parkes says it's good to have a New Zealander in the commissioner role. Parkes says Webb's work for Clear means he has some familiarity with the industry.

"Having a bit of a background in telecomms in New Zealand is positive; you can always pick up the specifics fairly quickly."

Webb's work at the World Bank, which began in 1991, has included advising governments on telecommunicaitons issues such as privatisation and regulation.

Telecommunications Users' Association (TUANZ) head Ernie Newman says that background is a bonus, but probably not essential to the job. However, having someone with some experience in the industry will be of benefit, Newman says. A legal background is also a plus, but not a necessity, he adds.

"I think the role requires a set of skills of which some degree of familiarity with law is important, but there are other things we'd regard as equally important, such as general facilitation skills, a sharp mind and a determination to achieve an appropriate outcome. It won't be a job for the faint-hearted."

Newman says when Webb takes up his post, telco companies will have to operate differently.

"The key thing about the commissioner is that they're independent of the political process and aren't susceptible to lobbying the way politicians are."

Grant Forsyth, Clear's industry and regulator affairs manager until the merger of the TelstraSaturn and Clear into TelstraClear last week, says the appointment represents a good day for the New Zealand telecomms conusmer.

"He appears to be well qualified for the job."

Vodafone spokeswoman Alison Sykora says the mobile network operator is "not in a position to comment" on the appointment.

Webb's appointment comes after an executive recruitment search by firm Bell McCaw Bampfylde which included input from Bell's London-based partner agency Saxon Bampfylde Hever.

Applications were received from New Zealand, the Asia-Pacific region, Britain, continental Europe, the US and Canada and were whittled down to a short list in August before IT minister Paul Swain's announcement last week.

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Tags Telecommunications Commissioner

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