Telcos call for copper cut-off code

Telcos want code to govern Chorus’ withdrawal of copper services in areas where copper services have been deregulated

Telecommunications providers, through the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (which still retains the acronym TCF, from when it was known as the Telecommunications Carriers Forum) want the industry to develop its own code to govern Chorus’ withdrawal of copper services in areas where copper services have been deregulated.

The proposal is contained in a submission to the review of the Telecommunications Act, which the government made public on 24 March along with other submissions.

The Government’s discussion paper for the review set out the proposal that, in areas where copper services are deregulated, Chorus would have the option of withdrawing service and removing the copper network according to its own timeframes so long as it met minimum customer protection requirements, which would be implemented in a regulated code.

The TCF argues that it is best placed to produce the code, saying it is in a unique position to work collaboratively with the industry to develop such a code, including resolving technical and consumer related issues.

“A TCF-led code would include minimum standards, including the consumer requirements contained in the discussion paper, as well as other practical measures considered necessary by the industry.”

The proposal is support by Vodafone and 2Degrees in their submissions. Chorus, in its submission, supports the idea of a code but makes no comment on how it should be developed.

However it cautions against such a code being allowed to forestall its plans to decommission copper in areas served by other local fibre companies (LFCs), saying “Care needs to be taken that in areas served by other LFCs, that the conditions of any code cannot be used to hold up withdrawal of copper. For example, while we will be obligated to provide an anchor product in our fibre areas, other LFCs won’t have the same obligation.

“In these areas, fibre products will effectively constrain how we can price copper services. This means we are not free to make excessive profits, or potentially even make a return. At some point it may become uneconomic to maintain the copper network. Inefficient investment is not in the long term interest of consumers, and at that point, Chorus should be able to withdraw copper without being held up by other network providers.”

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