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Stakeholder Views Wanted On Fibre (UFB) Deregulation Framework

The Commerce Commission is seeking stakeholder views on the framework it should use to assess whether there are reasonable grounds to investigate the deregulation of fibre (UFB) services.

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson, says the regulatory regime has a number of mechanisms built in to ensure it remains fit for purpose, including the requirement to consider possible grounds for deregulation before the beginning of each regulatory period.

“This is the first time we’ll be looking at possible deregulation of fibre services, so we’re seeking early input on the framework and principles that the Commission should apply.”

In this two-step process the Commission will first consider whether reasonable grounds exist for conducting a deregulation review. If the Commission determines that reasonable grounds exist it must then, as a second step, complete the review and make a recommendation to the Minister on which fibre services or geographic areas might be removed from information disclosure or price-quality regulation.

“As part of our reasonable grounds assessment, we’ll look at the state of competition in a sector that is absolutely fundamental to Kiwi consumers, businesses and our country,” says Mr Gilbertson.

“We’re particularly interested in changes in competitive conditions, since the new regime commenced two years ago, including the increasing use of wireless broadband services and Chorus’ proposals to withdraw copper lines in some areas. We’ll be looking at whether competition has developed to the point where regulation may no longer be necessary.”

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Submissions are due by 5pm on 16 February 2024 and can be made through the Commission’s infrastructure regulation mailbox. Cross-submissions on matters raised by other parties are due by 5pm, on 15 March 2024.

Background
New Zealand’s fibre networks were built by four regulated fibre wholesalers — Chorus, Enable, Northpower, and Tuatahi — in partnership with the Government under its Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative.

These networks are now regulated through a price-quality and information disclosure regime, introduced in 2022 following amendments to the Telecommunications Act (Act). Enable, Northpower, and Tuatahi are subject to information disclosure regulation only, while Chorus is also subject to price-quality regulation. The Commission is in the process of determining Chorus’ price-quality path for the second regulatory period covering 2025-2028.

Before the start of each regulatory period, the Commission must consider whether there are reasonable grounds to start a fibre fixed line access services deregulation review under s 210(3) of the Act.

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