Telecommunications group head rails at government disinterest

The government's lack of interest in telecommunications issues is a sore spot for TUANZ chairman Derek LeDayn.

The government's lack of interest in telecommunications issues is a sore spot for TUANZ chairman Derek LeDayn.

In particular, the telecommunications user group head cites as an example the absence of any government representative at a recent TUANZ/Auckland University Centre for Network Economics and Communications symposium on the universal service obligation.

"In June we arranged a symposium on the universal service obligation which had experts from about 25 countries as well as representatives of the local carriers," he says. "It brought together some of the best economists and policy makers from around the world and we were disappointed that key government policy makers chose not to attend." In particular the ministries of commerce, treasury and consumer affairs failed to attend or were unable to send key people.

LeDayn says he concludes that in this, an election year, the government is only interested in high-profile voter-related issues.

Another recurring bugbear is the government's hands-off stance and retreat from the interconnection issue. He is critical of a recent announcement by the government that it won't be changing legislation affecting interconnection.

"We've seen from Telecom and Clear that the interconnection process is terribly slow. Now that an agreement has been signed the government has backed right off."

Although the government commissioned a report on vertical market monopolies it was never released to the public and the government announced in June that it would not be making any legislative changes.

"After months of consultation and delay there was no more than a one-and-a-half-page press announcement saying that it's satisfied with the current provisions of section four of the Commerce Act.

"There was no reasoned discussion on how it reached this position. The press announcement did not canvass the issues that had been put to the government at all."

The government and other politicians will get a chance to redeem themselves at a debate at this year's TUANZ Communications '96 conference.

Telecommunications Minister Maurice Williamson, Labour information technology spokesman Graham Kelly, ACT leader Richard Prebble and possibly New Zealand first leader Winston Peters will take part in the debate. Kelly who is MP for Porirua, has been expressing concern about low income earners not being able to afford telephones.

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