“In 2015 the broadband community should start the critical discussion on how and when New Zealand can migrate from the copper broadband network to fibre because the current government won’t,” says Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran.
“If they don’t, then New Zealand will be bogged down in ongoing debates about the price of copper broadband thwarting economic development opportunities from fibre.
“Labour has written to more than 20 stakeholders in the broadband community including telecommunications companies, industry bodies and representatives of broadband users requesting them to take the lead on this.
“In the 2000s New Zealand managed to responsibly manage the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting without huge disruption to households or to individual businesses.
“It was an industry-led process with government assistance to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities did not lose access to a television service.
“It’s now time for that process to repeat itself so that Kiwi households can switch from the old copper network to fibre. Clearly it won’t happen overnight as most households still don’t have access to the fibre network.
“This week the Australian Government struck a deal with Telstra and Optus to gradually take control of their copper and pay TV wires to speed up the rollout of the national broadband network (NBN).
“Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the ongoing exhausting battle between the telcos and Chorus fighting over revenue margins and shareholder returns is getting us nowhere while the Commerce Commission increasingly futilely attempts to find middle ground while not provoking government intervention which props up monopoly shareholders.
“In the end it’s Kiwi households which will continue to bear the brunt of these battles as prices on the legacy copper network remain artificially high to protect Chorus shareholder returns.
“Everyone agrees our economy will be boosted by access to an affordable competitive fibre network.
The industry accepts the need for managed migration sooner than later. The big questions are how and when the costs will be borne. Someone has to take the initiative to break this impasse, the government clearly won’t.
In order to minimise the disruption to business and to consumers Labour has written to all telecommunication companies and industry bodies asking for a managed discussion to begin in 2015.
A lot can be learnt from the free to air conversion from analogue to digital Television which took around 10 years to complete and was managed sensibly with widespread industry co-operation.
We say it’s time to get on with it.
John Key is on notice that the entrenched cynical and manipulative abuse of official information requests by his Government will no longer be tolerated, Labour’s Open Government spokesperson Clare Curran says.
“The announcement by the Ombudsman of a wide-ranging review of Official Information Act practices across the public sector includes all Ministerial offices.
“It will undoubtedly lay bare the widespread and systematic practice of avoidance, delay and lack of accountability to requests for what is public information.
“This is where the rubber hits the road for John Key’s lack of transparency. In October he admitted the Government sometimes delays releasing official information right up to the deadline for political purposes.
“Labour revealed a year ago that most ministers deliberately and systematically wait until the last minute to release information or extend the deadline and then heavily redact documents, requiring a complaint to the Ombudsman which can take months, sometimes more than a year to resolve.
“As a result many issues of high public interest are unable to be addressed because crucial information has not been released.
“Requests are also frequently turned down on the basis they need substantial research and collation, when they don’t.
“John Key’s chickens are now coming home to roost. He, his Ministers and all government departments and agencies involved in the review, must fully comply with the Ombudsman’s review of OIA practices.
“Labour looks forward to working with the Ombudsman through this review to clean up and streamline OIA processes so that all New Zealanders have access to the information they need,” Clare Curran said.
Shareholders are winning out over Kiwi households in the latest episode of the long-running fiasco on copper network phone and internet prices, Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said today.
“As predicted last week hundreds of thousands of Kiwi households now face monthly price rises for their phone and internet connections after Spark, Vodafone and Callplus all announced prices hikes today.
“John Key’s controversial assurance two years ago to Chorus Chair Sue Sheldon that that he would sort out the copper price issue to protect Chorus shareholders continues to hurt Kiwi households.
“When the Commerce Commission accepted Chorus’ argument about the value and replacement cost of a new network the die was cast to keep the copper broadband price higher.
“The telcos are now raising prices to protect their own revenue margins and satisfy their shareholders.
“Meanwhile it’s the poor old consumer who gets to pay the price,” says Clare Curran.
“Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English’s confirmation that HNZ will declare surplus housing stock in Dunedin and other regional centres is penalising the increasing number of families struggling on low incomes to afford private market-based rents,” says Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.
This follows the recent Government announcement to sell off up to one-third of the country’s state houses.
“Figures released to my office under the Official Information Act showed that 33 HNZ properties were vacant in Dunedin for the month of October. Yet constituents are coming into my office on a regular basis with urgent housing needs and tales of waiting list times of up to 8 weeks,” says Clare Curran.
“The private rental market is becoming less affordable for those on low and fixed incomes.”
“All over regional New Zealand there has been a significant increase in vacant state housing stock, yet waiting lists continue to grow and significant housing needs continue to not be met. It’s a Catch-22 situation” says Clare Curran.
Figures obtained under OIA in May show that up to a third of Dunedin’s state housing stock (almost 500 houses) is due to be lost in the next decade.
“This is a sad indictment on the lack of growth in our region at the hands of this Government.”
“At the time, the Minister was in a state of denial, saying it was not a plan but just statistical modelling. Now the tables have turned, with the Minister confirming the likely losses of state houses in regional New Zealand, as the Government plans to shift housing stock to Auckland or sell it off entirely. This will only serve to further deepen the housing crisis in our regions.”
“My colleague Phil Twyford, Labour’s Housing Spokesperson, has launched a petition to save our state houses. I urge all those who are concerned about the state of our housing to sign the petition and make our collective voice heard” says Clare Curran.
The petition has already attracted more than 10,000 signatures in just one week.
Phil Twford’s petition can be found here: http://action.labour.org.nz/save-our-state-houses
Consumers will bear the brunt of today’s Commerce Commission decision which looks set to hike up the monthly cost of broadband over the copper network, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said today.
“While Labour supports the Commerce Commission’s role as the independent umpire we note with concern that their decision to raise the wholesale copper price from their interim price creates ongoing uncertainty for telcos and looks set to make things harder for Kiwi consumers in the lead-up to Christmas.
“This is a draft final decision and submitters have just six weeks to respond to what has been described as a ‘monster set of documents’ over the summer period. This seems a short amount of time over a holiday season.
“The only people happy with this outcome seem to be the Government and Chorus. That suggests the Commerce Commission should think again,” says Clare Curran.
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© 2014 Authorised by Clare Curran
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