19 Jun 2009

Alarm over broadband pricing decision

9:25 am on 19 June 2009

A rival of Telecom is furious at a Commerce Commission decision it says has effectively killed off competition in broadband.

The Commission has set the prices and terms for firms wanting access to Telecom's roadside cabinets, so they can offer their own broadband Internet services.

The monthly charge for access to the cabinets will be $11.99 in urban centres and $22.14 elsewhere.

Companies will also pay a portion of the cost of building the cabinets, plus thousands of dollars a month for access between the cabinets and Telecom's exchanges, known as backhaul services.

Telecom's rival Orcon says the prices are far too high and the Commission's decision has effectively killed competition.

Companies in competition with Telecom fear the faster internet speeds the cabinets provide already give Telecom an advantage, and getting the price right is essential to promote competition.

The access prices are about a quarter higher than those charged for access to Telecom's exchanges, which the Commission says reflects the better services that telecommunications firms can offer households.

Commerce Commission director of telecommunications Osmond Borthwick says the prices are fair and will encourage investment.

He says the commission has balanced the interests of Telecom and those seeking access to the roadside cabinets.

Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett disputes this, saying the Commission has failed consumers and entrenched Telecom's dominance.

He says the price has made it almost impossible for anyone apart from Telecom to deploy broadband infrastructure.

"Put another way, everyone's been priced out of the game," he says.

Mr Bartlett says any player would need at least a quarter of the market for it to make financial sense, which outside of Telecom, is as much as the entire industry has combined.

He says the access prices should be set at about $2 to $3.

Telecom is not commenting on the Commission's decision for the moment.