The Minister of Bandwidth

Legislation aimed to foster competition in the telecommunications market will be introduced in March or April and come into force later this year, communications minister Paul Swain says

Legislation aimed to foster competition in the telecommunications market will be introduced in March or April and come into force later this year.

Communications and IT minister Paul Swain set the deadline in a speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce this week. He outlined three measures that will be included in the government's response to the findings of last year's telecommunications inquiry.

The measures include:

• The establishment of a new telecommunications commissioner operating from within the Commerce Commission. Swain said "preliminary work" on appointing the commissioner would begin soon.

• Mandated wholesaling of Telecom's fixed network services and regulation of interconnection.

• A revamped Kiwi Share, promising "basic internet access" to almost all New Zealanders by upgrading Telecom's network to provide a minimum 9.6Kbit/s data capability to 99% and 14.4Kbit/s to 95% of residential lines.

Swain said the government would be "focusing in particular on bandwidth" as a means to facilitate New Zealand's participation as "a player in the knowledge society".

Swain also revealed that he would soon be travelling to Chile, the UK, Ireland and the USA "to examine information society policies and e-commerce/IT initiatives, to promote New Zealand as a destination for investment, particularly in our IT industry, and to attend Microsoft's Government Leaders Conference in Seattle.

"If possible I am hoping to use the trip to facilitate some opportunities for New Zealand businesses particularly in areas relating to venture capital for the IT sector," he said.

Swain also reiterated the key elements of the government e-commerce strategy launched as last year's e-commerce summit, which defined the government's role in terms of leadership as a model user, helping build capability and putting in place "an enabling regulatory environment".

Swain said this year all government departments were being asked to "regularly review and sharpen up the initiatives that were listed in the e-commerce strategy. This will form the basis for the development of a government six-quarter action plan."

Swain said his efforts would focus on the E-Commerce Action Team (ECAT), a partnership between government and the private sector that will "have two functions - to advance the implementation of the government's e-commerce strategy, and to report on the progress of e-commerce strategies throughout industry."

Swain said he would be announcing the core membership of ECAT this month, with the team to meet early in March.

"On the back of this we are organising a string of regional ECATs and a series of regional workshops in partnership with business and local communities. These will underscore the importance of both building information technology capability and the opportunities to be exploited through e-commerce," he said.

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