Prime Minister slates New Zealand broadband

In the strongest indication yet that Telecom faces further regulation, Prime Minister Helen Clark slated broadband offerings for New Zealanders in her opening address to Parliament. She called for new initiatives for faster internet access at more competitive prices.

Promising to take a fresh look at regulatory frameworks, Clark took up the broadband cudgel in her speech in the first sitting of the parliament this year. New Zealanders have too slow connection speeds, too low upload speeds and restrictive data caps says Clark. This has according to Clark inhibited some important applications and development of advanced services in the country.

As broadband is a critical enabler of growth, productivity and economic transformation, Clark expressed her dissatisfaction with New Zealand’s performance in this area. Looking at overseas indicators and benchmarks, Clark says she is unhappy that New Zealand continues to lag behind OECD countries in the broadband stakes, year after year. The latest OECD rankings for broadband uptake has New Zealand bumping along at the bottom, coming in at 22nd place out of 30.

The low OECD ranking for investment in telecommunications — New Zealand is 22 out of 30 countries — was also singled out by Clark as a problem.

Earlier on, the minister of communications, David Cunliffe, said that while it is a good thing that Telecom now has lowered prices and upped speeds, it was “not before time” and wouldn’t stave off his industry stocktake.

The Greens, who are supporting the government but remain outside it, issued a statement earlier which calls for Telecom’s broadband monopoly to be broken. IT spokesman Nandor Tanczos accuses Telecom of manufacturing congestion on the “information highway” and welcomes indications by Prime Minister Clark that the government will address the problem.

Taking a hard line on regulating Telecom, Tanczos says that nothing short of full local loop unbundling will fall short for New Zealand.