ComCom prepares for end of copper network
It has served us for so long and (mostly) so well, but the days of the copper network are numbered. Overtaken by the faster fibre network being rolled out around the country, which was branded so successfully as Ultra Fast Broadband by the previous National Government.
The Commerce Commission is seeking views on a Copper Withdrawal Code, which will be put in place to ensure consumers are protected when copper is decommissioned on their street. This could start happening as early as 1 January 2020 - although Telecommunications Commission Stephen Gale assures us that Chorus, the company that owns the network, can't begin to end copper services until "all conditions are met".
"There are consumer protections built into this process. To ensure consumers are not disadvantaged, we will be developing a copper withdrawal code that sets out the rules that must be followed before Chorus can stop providing copper services in neighbourhoods where fibre is available," he says.
"For example, the code will require that before the copper service can be withdrawn an equivalent fibre service is readily available at no additional cost to the consumer. Chorus will also have to provide information about available fibre services and give adequate notice of the withdrawal."
Under the Telecommunications Act the Commission will be required to determine specific geographic areas where fibre services are ubiquitous. "Once identified as a specified fibre area, Chorus will be able to stop providing copper services in them, e.g. VDSL and ADSL broadband and the services it sells to support retail service providers providing voice services."
In addition, the regulator is working on a 'Commission 111 contact code' that will mean Retail Service Providers have to ensure that "vulnerable consumers" can access the 111 emergency service at no cost if there is a power outage.
There is plenty of time for industry and consumer groups to contribute their a view, as submissions to the code close on 14 February 2019. The entire process - cross-submission, draft code, submissions to draft code etc - is expected to take the rest of 2019 with a final code in place by the end of 2019. While this will be in time for the designated start date of 1 January 2020, documents on the Commission's website note that the process can be extended by the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media for another two years.
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