New Zealand’s broadband muddle

Malcolm Turnbull said recently that we should be looking to New Zealand to see how to roll out a high-speed broadband network.

This week, we see how there is a lot to learn from the way New Zealand is doing things. Sadly, it seems to be a lesson in how to restrict competition.

It’s been two years since Twisted Wire last looked into the Kiwis’ Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project . Back then, the New Zealand Government hadn’t offered the major tender to Chorus, but New Zealand Telecom had offered to structurally separate if it got the gig. If it hadn’t gone Telecom’s way, then the bidder would find itself building a network competing with the incumbent’s fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network.

Fortunately, the government saw sense, offered the contract to Telecom and the structural separation went ahead. But it wasn’t the only winner. Power companies have won contracts in some parts of the country, meaning that infrastructure competition does exist in many places. It will be interesting to see how the take-up rate goes, with Chorus keen to keep customers on its own network for as long as possible.

“You’re not the first person to say that,” said David Stone, CEO of the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum, the equivalent of the Australian Communications Alliance.

We also hear from Paul Brislen, chief executive at Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, who tells us how a lot of the detail in how services are deployed are tied up in secret contracts between the government and the incumbent. Sound familiar?

First published on ZDNet

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