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RWNZ calls for increased rural telecommunications funding

Media Release
For immediate release
07 September 2016

RWNZ advocating for increased government funding for rural telecommunications

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has lodged a submission to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on its review of the Telecommunications Act.

While RWNZ strongly support the need for a new regulatory approach to wholesale telecommunication prices, RWNZ Vice President Fiona Gower says that it is disappointing that the review does not address the issue of underinvestment in telecommunications.

“We feel strongly that a key goal of the review should include bringing rural broadband speeds up to the same standard as urban speeds”. While considerable progress has been made through the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), the reality for rural and remote users is that the current state of the network remains poor. In addition, it is concerning that the Government is directly funding UFB deployment in urban areas but it is not actually putting any funding into rural areas as part of the RBI”.

The RBI continues to be funded directly by the industry through the Telecommunications Development levy.

Fiona Gower also states that the end-user impact of the proposed utility style pricing regulation remains unclear. “Primarily our members want internet and phone prices to remain affordable whilst also encouraging wholesale network operators to invest appropriately in improving rural infrastructure. We are concerned about how changes to wholesale prices will be treated by Retail Service Providers and reflected in retail prices”.

MBIE's review also proposes exploring options for promoting competition in the mobile market. Fiona Gower says “Mobile coverage is seriously lacking in rural areas, despite the fact that these days it is considered a basic lifeline in emergency situations”.

RWNZ’s submission encourages the Government to proceed with options that encourage greater infrastructure sharing and competition between mobile network operators. It also suggests additional government stimulus may be necessary to fund further investment by mobile network operations in the most uneconomic areas of the network.

RWNZ have read the submission made by TUANZ, and as a member, lend their support to the TUANZ submission on the review of the Telecommunications Act.

Ends


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