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Pricing a way of getting rid of rural customers

New pricing regime Telecom's way of getting rid of rural customers

Recent changes to Telecom's pricing regime for new telephone connections show that the telecommunications company does not want rural customers, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton and Associate Rural Affairs Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

Mr Sutton and Mr O'Connor said they would talk to Telecommunications Minister Paul Swain about what options could be considered by the Goverment.

Mr Sutton said while he accepted the Kiwishare obligation applied only to existing phone connections, and did not mention new lines, Telecom had an obligation to all New Zealanders because in many areas they were the monopoly provider.

"There is no-one else rural people can go to for the basic telecommunications services that urban New Zealanders take for granted. The only option is to resort to a satellite phone at tremendous expense, the way the military and aid workers do in uncivilized countries with no infrastructure.

"It's not the image I have in mind when thinking about our country."

Mr O'Connor said the new charges were "outrageous". He is to meet Telecom officials today to discuss the changes.

Mr O'Connor said the changes gave the impression that Telecom did not want rural customers. More people were moving to regional New Zealand as a result of booming local economies, and this extra cost would hit hard.

"It would be different if there were competing telecommunications providers in rural areas. I think that this is something the Government needs to look at closely. Personally, I think we need to speed up the implementation of regional telecommunications projects, so that our people can have a choice."

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