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No guarantee of major broadband agreements before election

7 December 2010

Media Statement

No guarantee of major broadband agreements before election

After two years in office National is still drip-feeding the public information about its ultrafast broadband scheme, with no indication who the major players will be and when those decisions will be made, says Labour’s Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran.

“Despite announcing two regional agreements today to deliver fibre in Northland and the Central North Island, Communications Minister Steven Joyce was unable to guarantee that the remaining 25 ultrafast broadband agreements could be finalised before next year’s election,” Clare Curran said.

“After announcing wholesale access prices of between $40 and $60 a month for connections to fibre to the home, Mr Joyce said he wouldn’t be making public details of how those prices were arrived at in negotiation with partner companies.

“I understand these prices are akin to the fee charged to customers by an electricity lines company. On top of this wholesale price there will be a yet to be disclosed retail price. It is as yet unknown whether most New Zealanders, despite having access to ultrafast broadband, will be able to afford to connect to it.

“Instead of being transparent about the method used to calculate a wholesale price for fibre, which is funded by $1.5 billion of taxpayer money, Steven Joyce plans to legislate to provide partner companies with a 10 year period free from regulation from the Commerce Commission,” Clare Curran said.

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“Today’s announcement of two ultrafast broadband partners sheds no light on the bigger issue of who will win the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch rollouts.

“The government will introduce legislation this week that significantly signals it will introduce amendments to enable the structural separation of Telecom if Telecom is chosen as a preferred supplier under the UFB initiative. This is very concerning and appears to be putting the cart before the horse for legislation which could be rushed through without proper time for public discussion and scrutiny.

“It’s taken the Government two years to come up with this Bill following a policy slogan at the last election,” Clare Curran said. “They’ve made no major decisions yet about who will roll out fibre, there is still no fibre in the ground and the role of Telecom in the rollout is the still the biggest issue. The Government needs to reveal its whole plan and give some certainty to the industry.”

ENDS

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