Swain defends ‘changes’ in bill

Telecommunications Minister Paul Swain is defending his telecommunications bill against criticism that several clauses have been added that weren't signalled by last year's Telecommunications Inquiry, its report or the government's response.

Telecommunications Minister Paul Swain is defending his telecommunications bill against criticism that several clauses have been added that weren’t signalled by last year’s Telecommunications Inquiry, its report or the government’s response.

Issues such as the telecommunications commissioner being inside the Commerce Commission or the industry levy were clearly signalled, he says.

“We said we would open up the Kiwi Share contribution issue and we outlined the four areas where we considered the need for regulation.”

Swain says one of those areas, wholesaling of the local loop and in particular the residential section — which is covered by the Kiwi Share — was outlined by government in its response to the inquiry report. “The issue of wholesaling and the residential area was formally decided by the government and was part of its response.”

But the government’s press release on the Telecommunications Inquiry website calls for the wholesaling of Telecom’s network in general and doesn’t mention leaving out areas where pricing is capped.

That fact is only mentioned on page nine of the government’s full response to the inquiry’s findings.

The bill itself specifically excludes Telecom’s price-capped services from the wholesaling arrangement, where Telecom would have to offer services to its competitors based on “retail price minus costs saved”. Price-capped services include local calls on Telecom’s network for residential customers, over which some of Telecom’s competitors are crying foul.

Swain also defends the idea of having one telecommunications commissioner working in conjunction with two non-specialist commissioners. “If the commissioner wants to recommend to the government a service that is to be designated they can do that independently.” Matters of pricing consideration is made in conjunction with the two other commissioners and any split decisions will be reported to government.

“The most difficult decisions the commissioner will have to make is in the area of price determination. In the end all these disputes come down to price.” Swain says having two other commissioners with experience from outside the telco sector will be invaluable at that stage.

Swain expects the select committee to report back to the government in late August and government will make its decision on any changes to the legislation then.

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Tags Paul Swaintelecommunications inquiryTelecommunications Bill

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