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Is it time to pick a date to switch-off copper network?

Is it time to pick a date to switch-off copper network?

"Someone has to take the initiative to break this impasse, the government clearly won’t."

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.

That's the damning view of Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran, who has called on the telecommunications industry to take the lead on the issue.

“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," she claims.

Curran says Labour has written to more than 20 stakeholders in the broadband community including telecommunications companies, industry bodies and representatives of broadband users in a bid to drive action on the topic.

“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," Curran adds.

“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, Curran insists the "ongoing exhausting battle" between the telcos and Chorus fighting over revenue margins and shareholder returns is getting the country nowhere.

A move worsened by the Commerce Commission's "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," she adds.

“Everyone agrees our economy will be boosted by access to an affordable competitive fibre network."

Curran says that while 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," she adds.

"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."

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