Spark piles heat on regulator over copper monopoly rent

Retail telco Spark has appealed to the New Zealand public with its Be Counted online campaign.

New Zealand telco Spark is piling pressure on industry regulator the Commerce Commission to justify new wholesale copper broadband charges that it says will be "massively out of line with comparable countries".

Spark has now launched a campaign website, becounted.org.nz, which it said will give the public a voice.

The Commerce Commission is in the final stages of a long and fractious review of wholesale charges for accessing Chorus' monopoly copper broadband network.

Ever since the regulator slashed the proposed regulated copper price in 2013, arguments have been raging over the correct methodology to reset the prices that Chorus charges to the likes of Spark.

Simon Moutter, Spark NZ managing director.

Chorus called on the government to intervene, warning that the scale of the cuts would create a billion-dollar shortfall in the revenue needed to complete the rollout of a new, government-backed Ultra-Fast Broadband fibre network.

Originally, the government looked sympathetic toward legislating the problem away, but public backlash forced it to back down and let the regulatory process run.

The indication now is that the commission is favouring a price north of its original proposed monthly wholesale price per connection of NZ$34.44.

"Spark has been working to give customers more value in their broadband plans," Spark managing director Simon Moutter said in a statement announcing Be Counted.

"However, the Commerce Commission is proposing to increase what Chorus can charge to access their network, which is already pushing up the price everyone pays.

"The proposed Chorus charges are almost 80 percent higher per line than the median charge of comparable countries -- that's up to NZ$180 more per year. We think that's not on, and that Chorus charges should actually be reduced."

Spark said the Be Counted site provides information about what makes up the price of broadband, and allows users to easily send a submission to the Commerce Commission.

Spark said the wholesale charge is around half the amount that customers pay for broadband.

"Spark is working to give our customers more value, and the Commerce Commission needs to justify to ordinary internet users why they're pushing charges up to levels well above comparable countries."

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