Govt mulls changes to telco obligations

Government considers how to update TSO as fibre, wireless becomes more common

New Zealand's communications minister, Amy Adams, has issued a discussion paper that canvasses changes to the Telecommunications Service Obligations, which mandates Telecom provides a minimum level of service and pricing for residential phone services.

The TSO is the successor to the Kiwi Share Obligations that the NZ government and Telecom agreed to when the telco was privatised in 1990. The TSO replaced the KSO in 2001. Both Telecom and Chorus, the network infrastructure division that was spun off from Telecom 2011, have obligations under the TSO.

The discussion paper puts forward a range of options for the future of the TSO, ranging from maintaining the status quo, which mandates the provision of landline services to most NZ homes and links the cost of line rental increases to CPI, to throwing open the TSO to the market with providers other than Telecom and Chorus able submit tenders.

The 'minimal change' option would include allowing Telecom to meet TSO provisions with technologies other than PTSN. This would include no longer mandating access to dial-up Internet access over copper; instead the obligation would be to provide some form of Internet access.

More sweeping changes could involve restricting the TSO to 'zones' such as remote communities where there is insufficient competition and areas that aren't covered by the NZ government's Ultra-Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiative programs.

A statement from Telecom said the company supported a review of the TSO.

"We believe the current copper-based TSO should be updated to allow TSO services to be delivered over other available technologies such as mobile and fibre," the statement said.

"The telecommunications landscape has changed enormously in recent years, driven by extended take-up and coverage of fixed and mobile access networks. It makes sense for regulation to better reflect this new technological landscape."

Feedback on the TSO review is open until 20 August.

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