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Additions to Telecommunications Bill proposed

Further amendments to current telecommunications legislation to be considered alongside the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband and Other Matters) Amendment Bill will be tabled with the Select Committee Office later today.

As well as measures for the effective implementation and deployment of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) Initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), the Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) sets out the legislative changes that would apply if Telecom were to structurally separate. 

Telecom has indicated publicly its intent to structurally separate by way of a de-merger if it is selected by the Crown as a partner in the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) Initiative.

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Steven Joyce, stresses that no decision has yet been made on what role, if any, Telecom will have in the UFB.

“Tabling of the SOP at the Select Committee stage provides industry and customer groups with an important opportunity to input into the regulatory changes associated with any potential Telecom separation,” says Mr Joyce.

“It is also important that government is clear about the regulatory environment proposed after any de-merger, so that Telecom shareholders could make an informed judgment on whether to de-merge or not should that proposal proceed.

“In order to inform the shape of these proposed amendments, the government last year sought feedback on the regulatory issues that would arise if Telecom was to structurally separate.

“The proposed amendments have been designed to preserve protections for end-users and competitors, reduce unnecessary costs and complexities, and ensure Telecom is neither unduly advantaged nor disadvantaged by de-merging in areas such as tax and land access.”

The Telecom-specific SOP changes would only come into effect should an agreement with Telecom be made for the UFB Initiative. If no deal is done with Telecom, then the relevant provisions would be withdrawn from the SOP.

“The SOP doesn’t impact on the Government’s ability to reach agreements with parties other than Telecom,” says Mr Joyce.

“I understand from Crown Fibre Holdings that discussions with a number of parties are proceeding well.  Crown Fibre Holdings is currently undertaking negotiations with Enable Networks for Christchurch and Rangiora, Flute for Dunedin, as well as Telecom. 

“Discussions are also underway with other UFB shortlisted parties.  This SOP does not inhibit Crown Fibre Holdings from prioritising negotiations with additional parties with whom it is in active discussions.” 

Mr Joyce says his understanding is that negotiations are still “wide open” but that he hopes to see good progress over the coming weeks.

Information on the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee’s process and timing for submissions on the Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband and Other Matters) Amendment Bill and the SOP is available at: www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/