Ensuring industry players have certainty to continue investing in New Zealand’s digital future should be the main thrust of a review into the Telecommunications Act announced this week.
That’s according to Spark New Zealand, addressing the media following the release of the Government’s discussion document, Regulating Communications for the Future, which looks at how the industry should be regulated post 2020.
Key issues include how to set the wholesale charges that all service providers pay the monopoly fibre lines companies to connect their customers to fibre broadband, and the process for eventually switching off the old copper network for broadband and voice services in favour of the new UFB fibre network.
“The most important thing the review needs to do is provide certainty to industry providers and their customers of the regulatory settings that will apply in the period from 2020 onwards,” sats John Wesley-Smith, General Manager Regulation, Spark.
“We welcome this comprehensive discussion document and the Government’s commitment to engaging with industry and New Zealanders on these matters well ahead of time.
“Giving service providers and network operators a clear picture of the costs we will face from 2020 on will allow us to focus on ensuring we bring the best of new products, services and innovation to New Zealanders.”
The Government’s review will also look at how the mobile industry is regulated.
“New Zealand is very well served by three mobile service providers who compete aggressively with one another on price, speed and coverage,” Wesley-Smith adds.
“As the Government’s discussion document notes, the next challenge for our sector is to ensure our regulatory framework creates the right incentives for mobile operators to extend the next generations of mobile broadband technologies deep into rural New Zealand, and it is timely to review the best way to achieve this.”
The review will also look at issues of “convergence”, where previously distinct technologies and industries (like telecommunications and broadcasting) are coming together, and “net neutrality”, which has been an issue in some overseas jurisdictions.
“Convergence is great for consumers and means new products and services are springing up all the time,” Wesley-Smith adds.
“This is creating huge changes in how New Zealanders live, work and play. It’s positive that the Government is looking to ensure our regulatory settings are keeping up with the rapid pace of change.”
Wesley-Smith says net neutrality is a high profile issue in the United States but is not such a problem here in New Zealand because the country’s copper and fibre networks are wholesale-only open access networks alongside a strong product disclosure regime.
“Net neutrality concerns are grounded in the potential for vertically-integrated monopoly network owners to dictate the terms of internet access to content providers and customers,” Wesley-Smith adds.
“Customers in New Zealand have a genuine choice of service provider, which is the ultimate protection against that outcome.”