Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Commerce Commission to look into rural internet 

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Study will be a key to closing the information gap, commissioner says.
The Commerce Commission says it has seen some evidence that rural internet consumers might be getting a raw deal.
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The Commerce Commission will cast an eye over the internet access options available to the 13% of New Zealand’s population who fall outside fibre broadband’s reach

Telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said the commission plans to look into the technologies available to people who cannot access Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB), map where these technologies are being offered, and look at other factors like price, performance and the consumer experience. 

“The vast majority of Kiwis now have access to world-class fibre broadband – but there are still a significant number of consumers living in rural and remote areas where services might not be available, can cost more, and don’t generally perform as well,” he said.

According to the terms of reference for the Rural Connectivity Study (RCS), the commission’s work will focus on investigating four things:

• The structure of telecommunications services in rural areas.

• Mapping out the availability of different technologies similar to the way fibre areas have been mapped. 

• Consumer outcomes like price, availability and service quality. 

• The uptake of internet services in rural areas.

The study will exclude rural areas where fibre is available and it will also not examine how regulations are being complied with, policy options, regulatory changes or the effects of different regulatory decisions.

Gilbertson said the RCS will help the commission understand the broadband options available to rural consumers.

“This study will be a key vehicle for closing the information gap we have between urban and rural, and the outputs will also be helpful for policymakers, advocacy groups and rural consumers.”

One NZ welcomed the announcement and said the company will continue to invest in rural connectivity. 

“We believe there is no singular technical solution to connect rural and regional communities – a mix of mobile, fixed and satellite connectivity will be required.

“The rural sector is of vital importance to New Zealand and any work that shines the light on the range and quality of services available for these communities is worthwhile. 

“We are continuing to invest into improving rural connectivity where it makes economic sense, most recently through our partnership with SpaceX.”

Gilbertson said the commission will seek input from a range of stakeholders including network operators, service providers, end-users, advocacy groups and government departments.

“While our most recent Measuring Broadband New Zealand report shows the potential of satellite for these areas, we want to know more about the full range of options available to rural consumers.”

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