Media Release: Easier install access an important step for UFB rollout

The Government’s announcement of streamlined consenting rules for installing Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) is an excellent step towards getting all New Zealanders connected.

TUANZ CEO Craig Young says property access for installations is one of the most important issues facing the UFB rollout, and he is happy to finally see that Government, and Minister Adams, have moved to deal with the problem.

“There is rapidly growing demand for UFB, and Government is rightly focused on making sure there are no unnecessary delays for customers wanting to get connected,” says Young.

“These new rules will allow customers living down shared driveways and right-of-ways to be able to access this nationally important infrastructure without unnecessary difficulty or delay.

“Just last week TUANZ reiterated the importance of dealing with install access issues. We hope that the necessary legislation will be drafted and moved through the House as soon as possible.

“Just as importantly, we are looking forward to seeing Government’s plans for opening up install access to multi-dwelling units (apartments for example) where people have been unable to get fibre installed, and measures to provide certainty to network operators about access to private property to maintain fibre infrastructure,” says Young.

There is still a lot of work to be done by industry to ensure that customers don’t have to wait to get connected, from streamlining how they work together to service customers, to the notable shortage in the number of technicians that can install fibre - a more complicated process than a traditional install.

“A quick and painfree install process is vital to the success of the UFB programme,” says Young. 

Media Release: Now's good to check you internet service, as UFB connections grow

With the latest government figures showing that Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB), and Rural Broadband (RBI) connections continue to increase, it’s time for users to start reviewing their Internet services to make sure they’re getting the best speeds, and the best price, available.

TUANZ CEO Craig Young said that yesterday’s numbers, along with last week’s report from the Telecommunications Forum (TCF), show the vast improvement that has been made in the New Zealand telecommunications industry over the last decade, and that it is important for users to actively compare their options as the market continues to grow.

The acceptance of the Commerce Commission’s copper pricing decision by industry was also a positive sign for the sector, said Young, and, while TUANZ believes the outcome was not beneficial to users, “it has given the industry important clarity on access pricing from now until 2019, which is important for users as they are choosing between services”.

Users can see what services are available to them by checking their address on their local retail service providers’ websites, on the Chorus or local fibre company’s site, or on the National Broadband Map available via the TUANZ website.

“TUANZ is committed to encouraging the continued growth in uptake of the new fast broadband services, as we believe they deliver the best possible service and price for users”, said Young.

“We were an early advocate for the need to increase network infrastructure investment, which helped lead to the UFB and RBI policies and programmes, and we will continue to support their uptake and use by people and businesses as an essential investment in New Zealand’s future.

“Our focus now needs to turn to how we are going to use UFB and RBI to turn New Zealand into a digital economy, and how we can get fibre installed into premises more urgently.”

Latest figures show that it can take anywhere from 22 to 104 days to have the service installed, and government is still to move on issues around multi-dwelling units and other issues impacting on installation.

“While we all know that installation is not as simple as flicking a switch, we are concerned that delivery times are increasing rather than decreasing. TUANZ is interested in working with industry and government to help address these sorts of issues where we can”, said Young.

While residential uptake continues to grow at a rapid pace, slower business uptake should be a concern to policy makers and service providers alike.

“Encouraging small and medium enterprises to take up these new services will encourage innovation in their approach to increasing business productivity, leading to better economic outcomes for both them and our country”, said Young.

“TUANZ is committed to developing resources to help businesses understand the value of fibre and 4G services, and how they can save time and money by investing in putting UFB and RBI to work for them.”


GUEST BLOG*: "Retail Resistance Frustrates Fibre"

Last week on the 9th February, Ernie Newman, past CEO of TUANZ, posted a blog on his experience ordering UFB for his home office.  Below is what he wrote to explain his story which we repost as a Guest Blog* (You can see the original post here).

"Is UFB – a visionary, nation-building programme that taxpayers have funded - being undermined by the retail telecommunications companies? From my recent experience, yes - the moment a customer in a shop or call centre uses the “F” word – fibre - your typical telco sales person  scuttles off like a scared rabbit.

Last year I helped a client connect to the UFB and found the process cumbersome, with RSP staff not merely uninformed but outright resistant. I hoped this was a teething issue, but now it seems endemic.

In recent days I’ve been trying to get my home office upgraded from naked DSL (on the old WorldxChange network, more recently taken over by Vodafone) to fibre. A breeze, I thought – Chorus had mailed me to say that work in my street is complete and to start enjoying UFB I should get in touch with my service provider.

Last week I rang 0800 123456 to start the process. - I was about to leave Auckland at the time and decided I’d use the downtime in the car to organise the deal. Before joining the Southern at Tamaki I dialed and typed in my landline number, after which I was put in the queue.

Near Takanini I got a real person – Jonathan. He asked for my home number – never mind that I had already typed it in. I explained my request. Jonathan went quiet – he seemed quite stumped that someone was asking to be connected to fibre. He put me on hold. Eventually he came back and said he would need to pass me to the sales team. Ok – back on hold again,

Near Drury I was answered by a lady whose name I forget. Once again she asked me for my home phone number and once again I explained my request. Once again there was a silence in which it was clear that she was out of her depth with such a request. She put me on hold.

Coming up to the Bombays, a third Vodafone person answered – how can I help you? She had not had any handover from the two previous operators. For the fourth time I gave my landline number.

I must admit to getting a bit tetchy at that point. “I’m only trying to do my job”, she retorted – and within a second the call was disconnected. Coincidence?

But it gets worse.This morning I started again ringing the same call centre number. They eventually answered but the moment I mentioned the “F” word they couldn’t wait to transfer me to another department. Unfortunately this department had their phones on nightswitch despite being 10am on a weekday, so I was asked to leave a recorded message which I did.

Later this morning I got a call back.“Sorry but we don’t offer fibre in Whakatane” I was told. “What” – I said – “I have a letter from Chorus saying it is available. Are you serious that Vodafone does not offer it”

“Your account is not with Vodafone” I was told. “You are a customer of Vodafone Next Generation Services - and we don’t offer fibre in Whakatane.”  (Next Generation Services but nix fibre? Yeah right!)

“Well then,” I asked, “does Vodafone (parent company) offer fibre in Whakatane?” “I don’t know,” they said – “you’ll have to ask Vodafone.”

I gave up. I drove to my nearest Spark shop.Nice people. Yes they said – we can get fibre for you. But there’s a crunch. I first have to convert to Spark DSL which potentially means replacing my IP phones with PSTN ones and will take two weeks. Then and only then can the process start to get fibre to me – that will take up to 3 months.

Despite all that, I agreed. Until, that is, it became clear that the whole process is so complex that it is beyond the normal salespeople. I need to deal the branch manager, who was busy out the back .So I gave up.

My thesis is this:

  • The reason UFB takeup is slow is that no matter which RSP you deal with the staff run like scared rabbits the moment the “F” word is mentioned

  • The underlying cause might be incompetence, or woefully poor training

  • However it is plausible that the RSPs, or a business partner, have a perverse incentive to keep customers on the copper rather than convert them to fibre – in which case that is really bad news for the consumer and for the taxpayer’s substantial investment. 

Whatever the reason, it seems that customers wanting to take advantage of the UFB for which they as taxpayers have picked up the tab, are being seriously frustrated.I would love to be proved wrong. Please somebody tell me if I am."

*Guest Blogs do not necessarily reflect TUANZ official position but are posted to encourage debate and discussion on pertinent issues.

Media Release: TUANZ warns that the final copper pricing decision puts NZ out of step with rest of world

TUANZ warns that the Commerce Commission draft decision on wholesale copper charges this morning will likely lead to higher prices for users which puts New Zealand further out of step with the rest of the world.  Recent research by organisations such as the ITU already have New Zealand pricing comparing poorly.

The final price announced today adds a further $3.30 to the previous draft meaning that there’s been a steady increase from the Initial Pricing decision of $34.44 to this final wholesale price of $41.69.  Users had seen the benefit of initial lower prices flowing through as a result of the process and improved competition but now will likely face further increases in their monthly charges given this final price applies from tomorrow (16th December 2015).

“These prices will have a direct impact on users, and especially those users who are unable to take up UFB services.  These include the 20% of the population who live rurally, and who have no other fixed line options and will continue to rely on copper phone lines for the foreseeable future.” said Craig Young, CEO of TUANZ.

“This decision also lends weight to ensuring that we as a country get the current review of the Telecommunications Act right so that post 2020 we establish an internationally competitive business environment when it comes to the cost of connectivity” Mr Young stated.

TUANZ recognises that the Commerce Commission is an independent arbiter who must apply the law around these pricing processes as it stands, but are disappointed that the end users look to have lost out in this latest decision.  “We are though happy that the Commission has decided (in a split decision) to not apply any backdating to the pricing which is a positive outcome for users.” said Mr Young.

Mr Young is concerned that this may not be the end to the more than 2 years of uncertainty as there is the possibility that one of the telecommunications providers may choose to challenge the process in court given the material size of the latest price rise.  

“TUANZ has a vision of helping New Zealand move into the top 10 for business usage of digital technology (using the World Economic Forum Network Readiness Index) and while this decision makes this task a little harder, it is one we are still fully committed to”