Purpose of this discussion document

Telecommunications markets are continuing to evolve with new technologies, business models, and competitive dynamics. In some cases, this is raising questions and creating challenges in relation to our regulatory settings.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) provides advice to the Government on telecommunications policy and regulation. We report to the Minister for Media and Communications on these matters.

This discussion document sets out some regulatory issues we have identified for consideration. It proposes options for addressing these issues, including MBIE’s preferred options in some cases. The feedback we receive from this discussion document will be used to inform our advice to the Government on what regulatory change may be required.

The issues and options outlined in this discussion document are preliminary only. Their inclusion in this document does not imply that changes will be made, and we note that new options may be developed based on submissions received.

In developing the discussion document, we considered regulatory and non-regulatory options to address the issues. Ultimately, we discounted the non-regulatory options because they did not address the issues identified, which tended to be regulatory in nature. However, submitters are welcome to suggest non-regulatory options where they consider these may be appropriate.

Scope of issues for discussion

The areas we are seeking feedback on through this discussion document are:

  • Consumer access to dispute resolution
  • Accessing shared property for fibre installations
  • Telecommunications levy settings
  • Identifying participants in the market
  • Enhancing information flow to the Emergency Location Information System
  • Governance settings in ‘other’ local fibre company constitutions
  • Other regulatory stewardship matters.

We note that consumers may be particularly interested in Section 1 regarding access to dispute resolution services. In addition, consumers and property owners may be interested in Section 2, regarding the rights to access shared property for fibre installations.

Issues that are out of scope

We are aware there are other telecommunications policy and regulatory issues of interest to stakeholders that have not been included for discussion in this paper. In some cases, work on these issues is already being progressed by MBIE or other government agencies. In other cases, issues may not be identified as a priority for consideration at this time.

In particular, the following areas are out of scope of this discussion document:

  • Resource management reform and the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications Facilities – MBIE continues to engage with the Ministry for the Environment on these matters.
  • Telecommunications resilience issues – these are being considered in work led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with input from MBIE.
  • Telecommunications Service Obligations are outside of the scope of this paper, but MBIE will continue to work with relevant stakeholders to respond to requests for reviewing aspects of these frameworks.

Process and timeline

We invite submissions on the questions set out in each section of this paper by 5pm on Wednesday 19th June.

To ensure we are able to take your views fully into consideration we encourage you to provide as much evidence as possible to support your position on each of the areas for discussion.

The Government may choose to consult on some issues further to inform decisions. MBIE will update stakeholders as this work progresses. Any legislative changes will also be subject to a select committee process, providing opportunity for additional feedback from the public and industry stakeholders.

Overview of telecommunications regulatory regime

Telecommunications Act 2001

The Telecommunications Act 2001 (the Act) provides the framework for the regulation of telecommunications markets in New Zealand. It promotes competition in telecommunication markets through the provision of an access regime for copper services, separation of wholesale and retail fibre services, and prohibitions on discriminatory treatment of downstream businesses.

The Act also provides for the Telecommunications Commissioner to investigate whether additional services should be regulated and to make recommendations to the Minister. The Commerce Commission can also recommend the removal of regulation if markets become more competitive.

The split between the provision of wholesale and retail services is a fundamental part of the telecommunications regulatory framework. This helps to ensure retail competition and good outcomes for consumers (such as more choice, better quality services, and more competitive pricing). 

The introduction of a new regulatory framework in 2018

The Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Act 2018 accounted for the large-scale transformation to a fibre-based network infrastructure under the UFB initiative. The Amendment Act enabled a new form of telecommunications network regulation.

The Amendment Act also provided for more regulatory oversight of retail service quality, enabling the development of Commerce Commission codes and wider Commerce Commission monitoring of consumer matters. It also introduced provision for consumer protection codes, such as:

  • the Copper Withdrawal Code, which sets out the minimum requirements Chorus, the provider of New Zealand’s copper telecommunications network, must meet before it can stop providing wholesale copper phone and broadband services, and
  • the 111 Contact Code, which ensures that vulnerable consumers, or persons on their behalf, have reasonable access to an appropriate means of contacting 111 emergency services in the event of a power failure.

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

The Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 (TICSA) is part of the telecommunications regulatory regime. TICSA establishes obligations for New Zealand’s telecommunications providers in two key areas: interception capability and network security. While this discussion document does not cover any issues related to TICSA, we note there is some intersection between definitions in the Act and TICSA.

Objectives and criteria

The objective of the telecommunications regulatory regime is to provide for the effective operation of communications markets by promoting competition and protecting consumers. Our objective for any changes that might be considered is to ensure that the regime remains fit for purpose.

We have outlined our proposed criteria to be used when assessing options to address the issues in the discussion document. We note there may need to be some trade-offs between criteria for certain issues. We welcome feedback on the proposed criteria:

  • Consistency with existing regulatory regime: Options should maintain the existing underpinnings of the regulatory regime, which is largely delivering good outcomes for consumers (regarding access to connectivity, price, and service quality).
  • Promoting competition: The Act promotes competition in telecommunications markets. Any changes to the regulatory framework should continue to promote competition.
  • Protecting consumer interests: Any changes should continue to protect consumers.
  • Fair and transparent regulatory design: Any amendments to regulation should be clear to any new or existing telecommunications providers, and to consumers. Regulation should be proportionate to the issue that is being addressed. 
  • Incentivising innovation and further investment in telecommunications: Consideration should be given to incentivising further investment in telecommunications networks, which is likely to result in improved connectivity and better consumer outcomes. 

Questions for stakeholders

Question 1

Do you have any feedback about the proposed criteria to assess the options in the next phase of this work? Are there other criteria that we should consider?