Let’s see how much of this you agree with this.
New Zealand needs high quality ultrafast broadband. In principle, the goal of delivering this to New Zealand businesses, schools, hospitals and homes is the right goal.
Delivering high quality UFB is a core infrastructure priority for governments throughout the world and is in line with the US, Australia, Europe and many Asian countries. New Zealand is not leading, we are following many other countries in delievring on this goal. It is likely to take (at least) 5-10 years to deliver.
Delivering high quality UFB is a complex undertaking to get good outcomes for our country. It requires transition for existing players. Including Telecom. But transition is about the whole industry not just Telecom and it’s a great pity that what happens with the UFB project and how it will be delivered, seems to be all about Telecom.
There is a view that Telecom is currently the most vulnerable telco in the world. I’m not sure about that, but it is important that Telecom can survive the next 3-5 years and make the transition. But it shouldn’t be able to demand the terms.
The next ten years are unknown territory for telecommunciations in New Zealand. The industry is poised to change forever and to become about fibre rather than copper.
Transition will likely require some changes to existing legislation, in particular the Telecommunications Act 2006.
Crown Fibre Holdings, the body charged with making a decision on the UFB contract, is an infrastructure company. It has no ability to determine a vision, no policies and no strategic element.
Telecom’s statement yesterday wanting to ‘integrate the UFB (overseen by CFH and a ‘co-investment’) with the Rural Broadband Initiative (a grant scheme being driven by the MED) and funded by the new look Telecommunications Service Obligations (overseen by the Commerce Commission) shows what a confusing regulatory alphabet soup the Government’s cornerstone broadband policy is becoming.
We need clear orchestration of all the elements in this process. It’s complex and it needs flexibility and transparency. It’s taxpayer’s money. That’s why it’s time to change the governance process.
And that’s why today I called for Telecommunications Commissioner Ross Patterson to be given an independent oversight role in the government’s ultrafast broadband (UFB) scheme.
Communications Minister Steven Joyce should now consider changing the governance process for the UFB decision and to involve the independent Commerce Commission ensure public confidence in the process. At the very least Steven Joyce should remove himself from decisions about Telecom’s requests for variations to its operational separation agreement with the government.
Dr Patterson has sufficient credibility and experience within the industry to bring independent oversight and objectivity into the process and to be mindful of New Zealand’s long term interests in developing our future in broadband.
Otherwise there is likely to be a cloud over the broadband decision. Whatever the outcome, how can the public have confidence that Telecom is not somehow holding our country to ransom with its bid to secure as much value for its shareholders as possible in securing the broadband contract?
“New Zealand’s interests are paramount, not the Telecom shareholders and the government should recognise this.