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National's Answer To Rural Broadband Poses More Questions

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Clare Curran
Clare Curran

Labour welcomes the government's proposals on rural broadband and the reform of the Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO) but is not yet convinced it will truly deliver fast broadband and reliable, affordable local residential phone services to all rural New Zealanders, Labour Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran said today.

"We're pleased the government is continuing with the general thrust of reforms of the TSO started by Labour. The TSOs were a distortion and distraction for the industry that needed correcting," Clare Curran said.

"The TSO needs more transparency and accountability to protect Kiwi consumers.

"National has now set expectations for broadband delivery in rural and urban areas that will need to be met, but there are several important questions still to be answered before the government can begin trying to deliver on its promises.

"Labour notes that plans to make an extra $52 million available for rural broadband as 'interim funding' on top of the existing $48 million commitment in this year's budget.

"This additional funding will apparently be borrowed from the $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband fund. This is creative accounting by the government and needs to be clarified.

"We note with interest the proposal to replace the current TSO industry fund with a contestable industry-wide mechanism specifically to develop rural telecommunications.

"However what we don't know is what criteria will be used to implement the levy, who will set the criteria, or the problems that will remain if it is not handled carefully and objectively.

"We also ask whether National has missed the opportunity for a major reworking of the TSO, given the growing dominance of the mobile phone sector over fixed landlines and the widespread rollout of broadband into New Zealand homes, businesses, schools and hospitals.

"We note concerns from Federated Farmers about how the new industry levy will operate and whether it will continue beyond a six year time frame.

"Labour will look closely at the details of both proposals and remains committed to ensuring the government delivers on its commitments and is faithful to the underlying objectives of the TSO; to protect consumers and deliver telecommunication services equitably to all New Zealanders," Clare Curran said.

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