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Telecommunications Response Good For Rural People

20 December 2000

Government Telecommunications Response Good For Rural People

The Government's response to the telecommunications inquiry would safeguard and enhance the Kiwi Share and telecommunication service to rural communities in New Zealand, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Communications Minister Paul Swain announced the response this morning.

The Government intends to introduce a range of measures which will provide for more rigorous monitoring of service delivery, including 111 performance - a crucial issue for rural communities, Mr Sutton said.

An industry-specific Telecommunications Commissioner will be established in the Commerce Commission to monitor the industry and to ensure that Telecom meets the enhanced Kiwi Share obligations.

This includes a base level of data transmission to 99 per cent of all phone lines within two years of the passage of legislation. That level ? 9.6 kbps ?can provide basic internet access.

A set of measurable performance standards will be established for the upgraded Kiwi Share. If Telecom fails to deliver on these standards, the Commissioner will have the power to withhold the financial contribution, due to Telecom, from the wider telecommunication industry.

In addition, Government will continue to retain the power to regulate the industry further.

Mr Sutton said the Government's recognition of the importance of telecommunications, including the internet, to rural people was an example of the value of the Rural Affairs portfolio.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Business Environment and Rural Affairs team has worked closely with other officials to ensure that the Kiwi Share provisions continued, and that telecommunication service quality to rural communities was enhanced. . "Government has asked officials to work with key sector groups, such as Federated Farmers, to facilitate solutions to outstanding issues which may be hampering telecommunication service quality, such as electric fence interference."

Mr Sutton said MAF was currently commissioning research on the digital divide's effect on rural people, which would feed into future Government policy.

"I see it as vital that rural people are not left behind, particularly given rural communities' tendency to adopt new technology and new skills swiftly."

Mr Sutton said he had listened to the concerns expressed by Rural Women New Zealand about 111 access problems and responded with a strong voice in Cabinet to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to reliable voice telecommunications.

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