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Battle Looms Over Secret Copper Tax Submissions

COALITION FOR FAIR INTERNET PRICING
MEDIA RELEASE
TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2013

Battle Looms Over Secret Copper Tax Submissions

The Coalition for Fair Internet Pricing will use all legal means to obtain submissions on the proposed copper tax that officials said yesterday the government intends to keep secret. (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/9253212/Ministry-accused-of-secrecy)

As a first step, it is calling on Communications and IT Minister Amy Adams to reconsider the government’s position and order her officials to immediately release all responses to the recent discussion document on the Review of the Telecommunications Act 2001.

It says this is necessary to ensure the review process benefits from transparency and contestability. The responses are in any case subject to the Official Information Act.

A spokeswoman for the coalition, Sue Chetwin, also chief executive of Consumer NZ, said secrecy risked creating errors that could embarrass the government and lead to inappropriate policy.

“We know there were secret talks for nearly a year between copper network monopolist Chorus and the government, as revealed by Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe on TV3’s The Nation and prime minister John Key in parliament,” Ms Chetwin said.

“Because those talks were secret, the information that was exchanged between the monopolist and the government was unable to be peer reviewed – and that led to Mr Key making his entirely inaccurate claims that Chorus could go broke if the copper tax is not implemented.

“We accept that some data from some submissions might need to be withheld to protect commercial confidentiality. However, the more material that is available in the public domain, the more confidence the government can have that the information on which it bases policy is accurate, and the more confidence the public can have that the process is not being driven by undisclosed or improper considerations.

“We don’t think this review of the 2001 Act should be happening at all, because it appears to be about nothing other than the price the Chorus monopoly can charge for copper broadband and voice services – but if it is to happen it should at least be done with the utmost good faith, transparency and integrity.”

The coalition’s response to the discussion document has already been made public and was based on analysis by top economists Covec, which in turn was peer-reviewed by Network Strategies and found to be conservative.

The Covec study found the government’s proposed copper tax would cost Kiwi households and businesses between $390 million and $449 million between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2019 over the price for copper broadband and voice services that Commerce Commission work indicates is fair. The latest demands by Chorus, which paid $95 million in dividends to its shareholders last year, would take this cost to Kiwi households and businesses to $979 million.

The Coalition for Fair Internet Pricing was founded by Consumer NZ, InternetNZ, and the Telecommunication Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) and is supported by CallPlus and Slingshot, the Federation of Maori Authorities, Greypower, Hautaki Trust, KiwiBlog, KLR Holdings, National Urban Maori Authorities, New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, Orcon, Rural Women, Te Huarahi Tika Trust and the Unite Union.

ENDS

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