The price of copper

Tom Pullar-Strecker at Stuff reports:

Communications Minister Adams has declined to shed light on whether the Government is considering intervening over pricing because of concerns about copper-based competition to ultrafast broadband, or Chorus’ ability to fund the UFB roll out.

Adams said claims that consumers would lose out if the Government overruled a move to drop the wholesale price of copper broadband connections by as much as $12.53 a month were exaggerated.

It “was highly unlikely that retail service providers would fully pass through any wholesale cost savings”, she said.

I’m quite dismayed that the Government’s response to the Commerce Commission’s draft copper pricing determination has been to threaten to legislate to overturn it, if they persist with it.

Lower prices are a good thing. Unless the Commerce Commission has misinterpreted the law they operate under, they should be applauded for looking after the interests of consumers.

And while it is right that retailers may not pass on the entire $12.50 a month saving, I am confident they would pass on the vast majority. If you think they won’t, then you are saying we do not have a competitive retail market and that is a far bigger issue.

I have been a huge supporter of the fibre roll-out to 75% of New Zealanders. But you don’t get people onto fibre, by artificially inflating the price of copper.

To be blunt the Government should shut the hell up on the Commerce Commission’s draft determination. There are some aspects of the Commerce Commission’s work where they refer to to Ministers for a decision, such as mobile termination rates. In those areas it is entirely appropriate for Ministers to express a view – as they are the decision making.

But in this area of setting copper access prices, it is purely a decision for the Commerce Commission, under the law passed by Parliament. The only response by Ministers should be that these pricing decisions are a matter for the Commission, and they support its independence.


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