Seven mobile-roaming options show lack of serious thought

New Zealand and Australia's steps to tackle obscenely high mobile-roaming prices are non-events.
Written by Darren Greenwood on

I was somewhat gobsmacked at the lack of action from the Australian and New Zealand ICT ministers yesterday concerning trans-Tasman roaming rates.

The indecisive mooting of seven options suggest that neither Stephen Conroy nor Amy Adams have put serious thought into the issue.

These options include the introduction of wholesale and retail price caps, enhancing regulators' powers and using legislation to allow roaming users to become local end users.

As I and others have noted, this is a matter that has dragged on for years.

Even the the most stupid politicians must be aware of how the telcos have been taking users for a ride.

If proof is needed of the rorts we have seen from the telcos, it must be Vodafone NZ slashing its rates barely minutes after the ministers announced their dithering.

Indeed, Amy Adams herself noted that it has been government pressure, most notably the trans-Tasman inquiry, that has helped drive down data-roaming prices from NZ$30 per MB to 50c.

If there was ever proof of a need for government action, this was it.

I accept that Stephen Conroy has had his hands full with the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the controversies that it has faced.

I accept that Amy Adams has other ministries to deal with, and may be out of her depth, as some say.

But here was a chance for both to silence their critics with firm, decisive action.

At least Conroy delivered some strong words, noting a 1000 per cent mark-up now dropping to 300 per cent. Adams didn't even deliver that.

On a brighter note, consumers will now be warned of excessive prices when they go overseas. Thus, any cases of "bill shock" will be down to a user's own stupidity.

But now, we have to wait a further month or so for governments to receive feedback, and it will be another year before anything is done about the prices themselves.

The worst thing is that this time will be used by telcos to bleat and whine against the various proposed options, which might even get governments to water down their already weak proposals. Consumers must put pressure on the other way. And telcos must realise that their rorting over the years has blackened their reputations.

I tend to be a free-market non-interventionist guy, but even I can see that this roaming rorting gives capitalism a bad name!


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