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Telecommunications Bill Reported Back

18 September Media Statement

Telecommunications Bill Reported Back From Select Committee


“The Government welcomes the report back of the Telecommunications Bill from its consideration by the Commerce Committee,” the Minister of Communications, Hon. Paul Swain, said today.

“I would like to thank the Committee for its work on this Bill, which contains a number of quite technical provisions that the Committee has considered.”

“The Bill has been subject to rigorous scrutiny by the Committee. I think that the amendments it has recommended will lead to a more robust regulatory regime for telecommunications.”

The Government introduced the Telecommunications Bill in May this year. The Bill contains the Government’s response to the Ministerial Inquiry into Telecommunications, which reported back to the Government in September 2000.

The Bill creates a new regulatory framework for the telecommunications industry (including a new Telecommunications Commissioner within the Commerce Commission), and carries over most of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1987.

“I understand the Committee considered a large number of very helpful submissions on the Bill, and has accordingly recommended a number of amendments to make the regime more robust.”

Key changes recommended include:

- shortened timeframes for the Commerce Commission to make certain determinations or decisions;

- immediate designation of fixed to mobile pre-selection from Telecom’s network as a multinetwork service;

- a new purpose clause for the provisions in Part 3 that relate to the declaration of Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO) instruments. TSOs will reflect government social policy objectives to ensure that certain telecommunications services are available in areas where they may not otherwise be provided on a commercial basis, or at affordable prices;

- giving the Commerce Commission the power to choose weighted or unweighted revenues as the basis for calculating the amount payable by a liable person in relation to a TSO instrument;

- allowing the Commissioner to impute a retail price for individual services sold together in a bundle of retail services, under the designation of retail services offered by means of Telecom’s fixed telecommunications network (although for procedural reasons this recommendation was not included in the Bill as reported back. It will be addressed by Supplementary Order Paper).

“There are a number of other amendments that Government members on the Committee would like to see made to the Bill to strengthen it, but that were not agreed by the Committee because of the split in membership. These include:

- a revised purpose clause for Part 2 to ensure consistency with the Commerce Act;

- strengthening of the wholesaling regime by including price-capped services (residential local access) in the designation of wholesaling of Telecom’s fixed network services, as recommended by the Inquiry;

- mandatory reviews of the need to designate local loop unbundling and access to unbundled elements of (and interconnection with) Telecom’s fixed public data networks. These reviews are to be carried out by the Telecommunications Commissioner within 24 months of the commencement of the Bill;

- specifying two mobile services, national roaming and cellsite co-location, as recommended by the Inquiry. Specification will send strong signals to industry that access to these services must be provided if requested;

- prescribing a fast-track process for a specified service to become a designated service, if necessary (designation allows pricing principles to be resolved); and

- clarifying the matters that may be considered by road owners in imposing reasonable conditions on the work of telecommunications network operators on roads.

“The Government intends to introduce Supplementary Order Papers to amend the Bill in relation to all these matters.”

“I am aiming to progress the Bill through its final stages in good time, so that the new regime can commence as early as possible.”

ENDS

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