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Federated Farmers - Telecommunication Inquiry

20 December 2000

Federated Farmers' Telecommunications spokesperson, Vice President Tom Lambie, has welcomed many elements of the Government's Telecommunications reforms, but said that he was greatly concerned about some glaring gaps.

"There is still no Universal Supply Obligation (USO) for voice connections. The USO is very important, not only for social reasons, but for economic reasons," said Mr Lambie.

"The package is good news for the 99% of New Zealanders who currently have a connection. We will be approaching Telecom to find out who the other 1% are, and what can be done to meet their needs."

"The $100m upgrade proposed by Telecom is good for those who currently have a phone connection, but not for those who don't."

"The package has failed to recognise the diversification and intensification occurring in rural New Zealand. New dairy farms, vineyards, and rural tourism ventures need phone connections. What new connection policy will Telecom apply?"

"What sharemilker or highly paid herd manager is prepared to work with no telephone. These people are managing multi-million dollar businesses, and have young families. They will not live where there are neither copper wire, nor mobile, telephone services."

"A guarantee to provide 9.6kb/s access will overcome the congestion for those lucky enough to have a telephone connection. This is still slow, but will open up the opportunity for many farmers to use asymmetric satellite links."

However, Mr Lambie was disappointed that there will be no Ombudsman. "One of the reasons that rural problems were hidden was that rural consumers have had no one to turn to with their complaints, and they are still being offered nothing."

"The electricity industry has shown the maturity to develop such a scheme, and it is time for the telecommunications industry to do likewise," he commented.

The federation welcomed tighter monitoring of the industry, and expected to see a transparent reporting regime. "Stakeholders must have input into the minimum standards. The new industry funding regime, and the proposed transparency, will also be beneficial."

ENDS For further comment: Tom Lambie 026-113-161 or 03-614-7019 Catherine Petrey 04-473-7269


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