The Commerce Commission Wants Your Feedback Now on The Proposed Protections For Households That Only Have a Landline to Use in Emergencies

The Commerce Commission is currently seeking submissions and feedback on a code to protect consumers who are at particular risk of needing to contact emergency services and only have access to a home phone to do so. Submissions are due by 5pm on Friday July 17, 2020.

The Copper Withdrawal Code

Information about the copper withdrawal code is available on the Commerce Commission website here.

This copper withdrawal code sets the minimum requirements that will need to be met before Chorus can stop providing copper services.

This copper withdrawal code sets the minimum requirements that will need to be met before Chorus can stop providing copper services.

Before Chorus can stop providing copper services, consumers must have access to an equivalent fibre service; that is, they must be able to buy the same services over fibre that they currently have over copper. This means that it is likely Chorus won’t be permitted to stop providing the copper service until the fibre service is connected.

Chorus is required to continue supplying copper services in areas where fibre is not available. Fibre will be rolled out to 87% of the country, so Chorus will have to continue supplying copper services to the remaining 13%. The Commerce Commission has produced a map that shows the areas where Chorus can stop supplying copper services (subject to consumer protections, which will be in place by mid-2020). The map will evolve over time as fibre becomes available in more areas.

Unfortunately, there are no obligations for retailers such as Spark and Vodafone to sell the copper services to consumers that Chorus provides. Some retailers are already choosing to provide broadband and landline services over their mobile networks instead of the copper network. So the Commerce Commission’s advice to consumers is to shop around if a particular retailer is not offering copper services.

Website editor’s note: Spark and Vodafone are of course the companies that are pushing hardest to try to foist an unnecessary 5G system on NZ and 2Degrees also plans to build a 5G network. If you would like to choose an alternative telecommunications company that is not pushing 5G, there are quite a lot of alternatives that you can access via this link: https://www.5g.org.nz/boycott-5g/

Save Our Landlines Suggestions For Your Submission to the Commerce Commission

Here are some suggestions on what you could include in your submission.  Please note it is best if you express the ideas below in your own words rather than copying and pasting them.

Submissions can be made at this page: https://comcom.govt.nz/file-upload-form-folder/file-upload-form 

  • In parts of New Zealand where there is no fibre, telcos that provide retail services should be obligated to provide access to the copper system, so that people can have a copper-based landline phone and internet if they live in an area where the internet over the copper network is satisfactory for their needs.  (In some parts of the countryside which are a long way for the exchanges, the copper internet is too slow for internet banking.)
  • This obligation to provide access to the copper system (for phone – and internet, for customers who want this – in areas where there is no fibre) should require telcos to supply these services at a reasonable cost.
  • This obligation to provide access to the copper system (for phone – and internet, for customers who want this – in areas where there is no fibre) should require telcos to promptly reconnect homes/businesses that have been intentionally (or unintentionally) disconnected from the copper system.
  • This obligation to provide access to the copper system, for phone and internet, for customers who want this, in areas where there is no fibre, should require telcos to connect new homes/businesses in an area to the copper system promptly at a reasonable cost.

The Commerce Commission also has a page where they are asking for your Feedback in 5 areas of interest, which can be made at this page: https://comcom.govt.nz/regulated-industries/telecommunications/projects/commission-111-contact-code/draft-111-contact-code-feedback/feedback-survey

Here are some ideas for Feedback 1-5:

1) People need to be reminded once a month, not just once a year that they need a back up if their power goes down, as they need to ensure their mobile phone is charged regularly if they rarely use it.  Perhaps the reminder to ensure people have a back up phone could be mentioned on their phone bills each month, a notice left on the telcos’ websites, and/or in emails sent each month by the telcos.

2) How are people going to know what their rights are with the imminent removal of the copper networks?  The changes need to be advertised well, perhaps on the TV news and in newspaper articles, as well as on the telcos’ websites and in individual letters/emails sent to consumers.

3) Among the list of ‘people of standing,’ family members should be included, as it may be difficult for people in rural areas to get a person of standing on the current list to assist, and it makes more sense to allow a family member to make the judgement call, as they are the most familiar with the circumstances at the home in question.

4) The copper line must not be removed if there is no reasonable alternative.

5) Regular contact needs to be more than once a year by the telcos.  Once every three months seems more appropriate for people who are vulnerable and need extra care.

FURTHER DETAILS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS

Here is additional information that was provided by the Commerce Commission (CC), that may not be mentioned on their website, which we acquired by posing them questions in March, 2020. The information here may assist you with your submissions, also.

Save Our Landlines (SOL): What notice would be given to a household regarding a planned disconnection of the copper and what can a household do about any planned disconnection which they did not wish to occur, for safety/health reasons and so on?

 CC: The exact details of the reasonable notice that will be required and any disconnection process will be decided as part of the Copper Withdrawal Code process. A draft code will be published in mid-May and we would appreciate any feedback on the code.

SOL: What will happen to members of the public in a fibre-designated zone, who are using copper, but do not have fiber connected when the copper is taken out?  

CC: The copper withdrawal code sets the minimum requirements that will need to be met before Chorus can stop providing copper services.

 For example, before Chorus can stop providing copper services, consumers must have access to an equivalent fibre service; that is, they must be able to buy the same services over fibre that they currently have over copper. This means that it is likely Chorus won’t be permitted to stop providing the copper service until the fibre service is connected. More information about the copper withdrawal code is available here.

SOL: Will the Commerce Commission intervene to assist consumers if they cannot find a retailer that offers copper service in their area? 

CC: The Commission does not regulate the supply of retail copper services to consumers. It is a commercial decision what services those retailers decide to provide, and what technologies they use to provide them. The 111 contact code will protect consumers who are at particular risk of needing to contact emergency services and only have access to a home phone to do so. Please visit this page for more information and to provide feedback.

This factsheet provides information on what the Commerce Commission recommends consumers do if they are unhappy with the service their telecommunication company is providing them.

SOL: What notice would be given to a household regarding a planned disconnection of the copper and what can a household do about any planned disconnection which they did not wish to occur, for safety/health reasons and so on?

CC: The exact details of the reasonable notice that will be required and any disconnection process will be decided as part of the Copper Withdrawal Code process. A draft code will be published in mid-May and we would appreciate any feedback on the code.

SOL: An example of why we need rules in place:  An elderly widow, Barbara who lives in Tikipunga, Whangarei advised me in mid-December, 2019 that she told Vodafone, her landline provider, that she wanted to retain her copper phone line.  Vodafone ignored her request, disconnected the copper and installed fibre without giving her any notice.   Barbara had no working landline for several weeks after the copper line was disconnected.   Needless to state, this made her life very stressful and on top of this,  she had to contact Vodafone 18 times before the fibre line, which Vodafone had forced her onto, was working and she had a working phone line again.   

CC: I am sorry to read of this example, it sounds like a very poor process. I would recommend that this person contacts the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR) to see if there is anything they can do. It is not a requirement for copper to be withdrawn during a fibre installation. But if the customer requests that they keep the copper phone line, in addition to the fibre broadband, they will have to pay for both. This is why most fibre installers look to remove the copper during the fibre installation. Fibre cannot be installed without the permission of the property owner.

SOL: What will happen to people who have internet over copper in the countryside (where there is no fibre), as well as a copper-landline phone?  Will they be able to keep their current services? 

CC: Unless an equivalent fibre service is available in an area, Chorus will have to maintain its copper services there. As I mentioned, it is the retailers’ decision about whether they provide Chorus’ copper services to consumers. So the copper won’t go away for those people, but they might find that some retailers offer phone and broadband services over a mobile network instead.

SOL: Is there a requirement for retailers to keep supplying these services to customers who have them already?

 CC: No, retailers may choose to move their existing customers to newer technologies. We have seen Vodafone and Spark do this in some regions.

SOL: Is there a requirement for retailers to organize new connections to the copper network for new builds in the countryside, where there is no fibre, and reconnect exiting homes in rural areas where a previous owner or tenant chose not to have the copper connected or had it disconnected?

 CC: No, retailers are free to choose the technologies that they provide their services over. If the property is outside of a fibre area, Chorus will still be required to offer a copper service (even if that property has never had a copper service, or it has been disconnected), but Chorus does not have connect (or re-connect) a property for free.

Related:

  NZHerald article dated the 11th of March, 2020 which states that “copper lines are soon to be a thing of the past.”  See: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12315857

 Hon Kris Faafoi advised that copper networks would be retained in rural areas.  See: http://www.saveourlandlines.nz/news/letter-from-the-hon-kris-faafoi-states-that-rural-landlines-are-safe/

Please join us

our voice in defence of New Zealand’s copper landline network and your taking the time to help educate others about the importance of this important infrastructure would be most appreciated.  There is a summary of the government’s actions and the campaign to date at the following link:http://www.saveourlandlines.nz/news/2019-update/

If you would like to help with the campaign you may contact us via our Contact Form which you can reach by clicking HERE.

We have a Facebook page that you are welcome to like and follow it is https://www.facebook.com/Save-Our-Landlines-NZ-1626155717464225/