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ComCom needs submissions on 111 and copper line codes

Paul Brislen, Editor. 13 July 2020, 5:00 am

The Commerce Commission is seeking feedback on two fundamentally important telecommunications codes that will help set the direction of the nation's calling requirements for the next decade or so.

The first is a review of the emergency calling code requirements for home phones, in particular the move from copper to fibre networks.

"The 111 contact code (the code) has been drafted to support home phone customers who may be unable to call 111 in a power cut, due to New Zealand's transition to new home phone networks like fibre and fixed wireless. These new networks need a power supply in the home to work. This means they may not work in a power cut."

The code is attracting a lot of attention from the anti-5G brigade who see it as yet more evidence that an uncaring government is trying to use telecommunications to control the population or something similar.

A website - Save Our Landlines - is urging visitors to submit on the new code demanding that retail providers be forced to offer copper line services to those who want them.

"Some retailers are already choosing to provide broadband and landline services over their mobile networks instead of the copper network. So the Commerce Commission's advice to consumers is to shop around if a particular retailer is not offering copper services."

Of course, 5G cellphone services are never far from the heart of all problems, apparently, and the site reminds visitors that 5G is no alternative to fixed-line communications.

"Spark and Vodafone are of course the companies that are pushing hardest to try to foist an unnecessary 5G system on NZ and 2Degrees also plans to build a 5G network," says the website somewhat breathlessly.

The focus of opposition to the move to fibre is that copper line telephones were powered by the electrical pulses down the line itself, meaning even if the household power was out the landline would still work.

This assumes of course that the handset connected to the landline was a fixed device, not a cordless one, but that doesn't stop the site calling for submissions demanding these things not only be made available but also that retail providers be required to sell them.

The second somewhat aligned code that is under review is the "Copper Withdrawal Code" which governs when and where Chorus is able to close down its copper network.

"Before Chorus can stop providing copper services, consumers must have access to an equivalent fibre service; that is, they must be able to buy the same services over fibre that they currently have over copper."

Running two networks is not an economic proposition for Chorus. Indeed, the copper network is ageing and was often described as costly to maintain by Chorus in its days as Telecom's network arm. Many thousands of pages were submitted explaining just how costly the copper lines were to operate when the copper network was the heart of New Zealand's telecommunications system. Now that it is surplus to requirements, Chorus quite rightly would like to shut it down where alternatives are in play and when a significant number of customers have moved to alternatives, such as fibre or fixed wireless services.

Submissions to both codes are due by 17 July and can be completed online.


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