In the middle of the passage of new telecommunications laws in Parliament, the Commerce Commission has launched a study of the regulation of fibre services.
"While the shape of future regulation of fibre services is still being finalised, we consider that it is important to further our understanding of current industry practices," the regulator said in its terms of reference.
"We would expect that understanding to inform our future work in implementing a new regime for the long-term benefit of end-users, regardless of the form that regulation might take."
New Zealand’s fibre networks are being built by Chorus and three local fibre companies as part of the Government’s ultrafast fibre broadband initiative.
“This study will give us a better understanding of providers’ networks, fibre services, network operations and business practices,” Telecommunications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said.
Parliament is now considering the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill which proposes a utility-style regulatory regime for fibre networks, similar to what applies for energy networks and airports.
That controversial Bill includes provisions to ease the regulation of fibre wholesaler and network owner Chorus by eliminating copper network regulations in areas where fibre is available and easing restrictions on the lines of business the company can operate.
Only one class of products will be price-regulated, an entry level anchor product and a voice-only product.
“Implementing any new regulatory regime for fibre will be a major undertaking for the Commission," Gale added. "It is important we take steps now to increase our understanding of the industry and inform our future work.
“Starting this study now under our market studies power in the Telecommunications Act gives us a head start on gathering information from Chorus and the local fibre companies. We expect the information about fibre services to be useful regardless of the form that regulation might take.”
The Commission is holding a workshop with the industry on 2 May 2018. The study will be discussed as part of the workshop.
The Commission intends to publish a high level summary of its findings at the conclusion of the study.