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Fletcher Inquiry overturned

Lockwood Smith National Communications Spokesman

20 December 2000

Fletcher Inquiry overturned

National's spokesman on Communications, Lockwood Smith, is questioning whether the Government really needed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an inquiry which has been substantially ignored.

"The Government has overturned significant parts of the Fletcher Inquiry into the Regulation of Telecommunications. That was a costly inquiry, and taxpayers money could have been better spent elsewhere.

"The centrepiece of the Fletcher Inquiry was the stand-alone industry-specific regulator. That's gone, and in its place the Government is establishing a specialist commissioner within the Commerce Commission, with key pricing decisions to be made by the Commission as a whole.

"Rejecting the idea of a regulator was a good decision, but with one possible pitfall. Requiring the Commerce Commission as a whole to make crucial decisions could be a slow process. In the rapidly evolving telecommunications sector speed can be vital.

Dr Smith says he is pleased the 'ridiculous' recommendation of the Fletcher Inquiry that television decoders should be subject to regulation has been ditched. "It is however unfortunate that a very constructive recommendation by Vodafone, that a system of private arbitration be established, was not adopted by the Government.

"The Government must now deliver on its promise of better internet access for the rural sector. It is essential that rural business has access to these services, and the duty is now on the Government to make that a priority in its renegotiation of the Kiwi Share.

"New Zealand's light handed regulation has produced very positive outcomes in recent years in terms of technological innovation. That must continue in the future and the risk of the Fletcher proposals was they could have stifled that rapid innovation by bringing excessive focus onto older technology such as copper wire, rather than the new," Lockwood Smith said.

Ends

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