The following is a transcript of an interview with ICT Minister Amy Adams by Computerworld
editor Sarah Putt, which formed the basis for the article 'An Appointment with the Minister
', posted online September 10 2012
Putt: We’ve had the first Chorus results and chief executive Mark Ratcliffe says only 200 premises connected to UFB and he’s only got 2000 contractors. I have seen a connection and it took 4.5 hours. Any concerns there?
Adams: No, not really. Our total connection numbers under UFB are sitting around 1400 and we always said it would be slow and gradual given that we only really ramped up to the full speed in the last few months of last year. And what we know is that most of the big products aren’t in the market yet. You haven’t got Telecom in the market, or Vodafone. You haven’t got the big players who are the lion’s share of the telecommunications industry at the moment. And it’s not surprising to me that their products aren’t in the market because it makes good commercial sense. You wait until there’s quite a body of premises able to be connected before you launch.
If you look at the uptake trajectories in countries that are ahead of us in broadband rollouts – Korea, Singapore and the like - we know that it tracks very low and slow and then there’s an exponential growth curve as it starts to get momentum.
The other thing is that when you look at the equivalent technology uptakes for transformative technologies like the introduction of cellphones, or fax machines, or however far back you go, it’s the same sort of trajectory. People chew along thinking ‘I’m happy with the way I am’ and it takes a while for them to see and understand why they would make the connection, the step up to the next technology.
On the other hand you’ve got people emailing us daily saying 'when can I get?’. I always expected it to build slowly and gradually and that’s absolutely consistent.
Maybe they’re [Telecom and Vodafone] waiting for this connection issue to be resolved. It’s not a good look is it? Three LFCs are going to connect for free for 30 metres - I understand Ultra Fast Broadband is going to connect regardless of how far the premise is from the curb. But Chorus are saying 15 metres.
That’s what in the contract, but all of them are offering free connections to Retail Service Providers (RSPs).
That’s only a trial
It’s a temporary solution while we resolve the long term arrangement and we’re in active negotiations to find a way through that. I don’t believe that’s stopping any connections because all of them right now are offering RSPs a free connection while we work through solving the issue.
It’s a pretty appalling part of the contract. You have to look to Crown Fibre and say, how come Chorus got off with only 15 metres – have you asked that question?
They negotiated different contracts each of the LFCs and you can’t just look at one term of the contract. It’s a package negotiation they’ve done with each of them and there are differences with each of them and all of the contracts in different ways.
My view is that we do need to have a simple solution to this and that’s what we’re working through now. But the key thing is that it isn’t stopping any connections coming through.
What is the simple solution?
You’ll have to wait and see, we’ll announce it when it’s completed.
And when will that be? Chorus said September
That would be nice but I’m not going to lock myself down to a date. The cool thing is that we have an arrangement in place that covers us, certainly out to the end of this year. We’re not sitting on some burning platform on this, but all the same we want to get some certainty around it.
The RSPs are saying that if they’ve got to pay the remainder of the connection fee, they’re going to pass it on.
Actually 15 metres covers the vast bulk of properties but nonetheless I think we need to have a package that’s clear cut for everyone and that’s what I’m working on.
No word on who is going to pay the extra, because it could end up being the taxpayer.
When it’s announced everyone will be reasonably relaxed about it.
Why is there a delay in 700MHz spectrum?
I don’t think there is a delay. We’ve always said that 700MHz spectrum is only cleared for use from December 2013, so we intend to have it auctioned and available for use well ahead of that time, so that whoever is successful in getting the spectrum can build the infrastructure and make their plans. We’ve always said it will be available for use in December 2013 and we’re still on track for that.
You were supposed to go to cabinet in May.
We said with the Maori Party we’d try and work on a settlement of the spectrum claim by May.
Our timetable has always been for an allocation of the spectrum towards the end of the first quarter of next year, so we haven’t set a date for it and this is why we don’t set dates because then you turn around and say why is there a delay.
The key thing is that the spectrum is available for use from December 2013 and our intention is to have it allocated in plenty of time so the companies can make their plans to deploy it from after that date. So from my perspective there is no delay.
What about the delay in settling with the Maori Party and the treaty claimants, because here we are.
We're still talking. We could have pushed ahead but I’d rather get a solution with them.
So this is what’s holding it up?
No, it’s not holding it up. Sarah you are determined to find a delay, there’s no delay. The overall timeframe for the allocation of the spectrum hasn’t moved.
This has though.
That was date that was put in the confidence and supply agreement and I would like to have had it wrapped up by May. We’ve been talking, it’s very constructive, and I think we’re getting close to a resolution of that. We might not find a solution that they like, we might. I’m hopeful that we will. The key point is that it’s not delaying the rollout of the 700MHz spectrum which is still on track in the same timeframe that we’ve always said.
You’ve got a Treaty of Waitangi claim and you’ve Graeme Everton whose mother Rangipo Everton lodged the claim for spectrum. But then you’ve got this trust, Te Huarahi Trust
trust, which has a 10 percent in 2degrees. So everyone’s assuming that the Trust is going to get that spectrum.
You’re getting ahead of yourself, that’s exactly the negotiations we have to have in terms of what’s appropriate in any sense. Whether it’s a spectrum or not is still to be decided. I think it’s a bit early to speculate on if there was to be spectrum which entity within Maoridom would hold it.
We’re negotiating that now and so I’m not going to start getting outside that and talking to you about where that might land.
There has been a precedent set by Trevor Mallard
They did the 3G settlement in 2000 with Hautaki and that’s fine, that’s the settlement they came to then. We're approaching this as a fresh issue.
So can you give me some ideas, it’s a taonga.
That’s what the claimants say, we’ve never accepted that, we’ve been very clear that we’ve never accepted that spectrum is a taonga and neither has any previous government. So the claimants have lodged with the Tribunal, that’s well known, that’s been in abeyance for some time. We’re working through to see if we can come to an agreement with them, that’s where we’re at.
Is the sticking point the broadcasting spectrum, I know that Craig Foss is the minister of broadcasting, but spectrum’s your issue. You’ve got a broadcasting spectrum
The policy decisions around how that’s used and how broadcasting is managed across that spectrum sit with Craig Foss, in conjunction with Pita Sharples in terms of the ones that are allocated for Maoridom. We just do the mechanics of the spectrum, not the policy decisions around broadcasting.
My understanding is that the people that held the broadcasting spectrum under the analogue system, the rights continue.
The restacking process in terms of clearing the analogue spectrum, obviously we’re moving people’s licenses so that they have equivalent amount of provision in the digital bands. Not looking to change the allocation models, if that’s what you’re asking, as part of the restacking project.