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Land access changes to streamline UFB rollout

Hon Amy Adams

Minister for Communications
9 June 2015

Land access changes to streamline UFB rollout

Communications Minister Amy Adams has today released a raft of proposals to help speed up the installation of Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB).

The Land Access for Telecommunications discussion document seeks feedback on ideas to reduce unnecessary costs and delays with the UFB rollout.

“As one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects New Zealand has ever undertaken, the UFB programme is not a small and incremental upgrade to an existing network but rather a complete rollout of a new and innovative technology into our homes, businesses and schools,” Ms Adams says.

“With demand for UFB taking off and the number of network connections now exceeding expectations, we’re gaining a better understanding of the nature and scale of some of the challenges that can be encountered with a programme this ambitious.

“There have been frustrating delays faced by some customers and industry in installing broadband cables up shared driveways and in apartment complexes due to disputes and permission requirements. There are also unnecessary costs being placed on the build through the inefficient use of existing infrastructure.

“While the industry has a role in streamlining the way they process UFB applications, the Government is ensuring the regulations are fit for purpose.”

Current regulations mean that in some cases efforts to deploy fibre could add over double the cost and cause delays of more than a year in order to secure agreement from various individual land owners and purchases easements for every property passed.

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“New Zealanders are crying out for ultra-fast broadband because they recognise it’s a huge opportunity for improved connectivity. We want to give New Zealanders easy and fair access to better broadband, rather than hold up the rollout with burdensome rules and regulations,” says Ms Adams.

The discussion document outlines four proposals for change:

• amending the way in which network operators seek permission to access private property (in situations like shared driveways and apartment buildings)

• enabling better use of existing utility infrastructure to more efficiently roll out fibre networks

• providing more certainty to network operators regarding their ability to maintain fibre infrastructure installed on private property

• establishing an expanded and accessible disputes resolution process to ensure that land access disputes can be resolved quickly and fairly.

Submissions close at 5pm on 24 July 2015

The Land Access for Telecommunications discussion document can be found at:http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/technology-communication/communications/broadband-policy/telecommunications-infrastructure-deployment/land-access-for-telecommunications-consultation.

Case studies of land access woes:

Facilitating fibre-to-the-premises

Living down a shared driveway or right of way with multiple owners currently requires written permission from each property owner to install UFB in the driveway. If one owner is too busy to sign the form, the UFB connection will be delayed, and could even be cancelled all together if it takes too long. The proposals would prevent fibre connections from being unreasonably delayed.

Neighbours on a shared driveway might also unreasonably refuse to provide permission. The Government is proposing to limit the power to prevent a UFB connection to a limited set of reasonable grounds. If a neighbour was being unreasonable, they could not prevent a UFB connection.

Deploying fibre using existing utilities

The cost to extend the fibre network out to hard-to-reach communities (such as rural or remote communities with low population) under current rules is prohibitive with a considerable proportion of the cost being added by the requirement to obtain easements over private land.

This discussion document proposes allowing the Government to expand fibre networks and bring improved services to communities in places where it would otherwise be uneconomic to do so. Removing this barrier by providing for a new statutory right will make it possible to deliver fibre services and improved backhaul services to rural communities.

Causing unnecessary costs and delays

Northpower undertook a study of the costs to deploy fibre to the Jordan Valley farming community North of Whangarei. This particular electricity feeder is 83 km long and crosses 206 individual properties in order to provide power to just over 300 buildings. The cost of the fibre would be approximately $1 million. Under current rules however, Northpower would also be required to undertake a process to get agreement from each land owner and likely have to purchase easements for each of the properties passed. They estimate that this process would take in excess of 18 months and cost an additional $1.44 million (an extra 170 per cent in costs).


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