Patterson slams Govt broadband interference

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 10:22 10/12/2012

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Former telecommunications commissioner Ross Patterson has accused the Government of "unprecedented" interference for threatening to legislate over a draft determination by his successor, Stephen Gale, on broadband pricing.

In an opinion published today, Patterson said that if the Government was considering "artificially increasing" the cost of copper-based broadband in a bid to increase the take up of the Crown-backed ultrafast broadband network, that policy was "doomed to failure".

The price of broadband could fall by about $12 a month in two years' time if internet providers pass on swinging cuts to Chorus' charges that were proposed a week ago in a draft ruling by the Commerce Commission.

But Prime Minister John Key immediately signalled that the Government was concerned about the effect cheaper copper-based broadband could have on the fibre-optic UFB network, in which the Government has agreed to invest $1.3 billion. He has not rule out using legislation to overturn the proposed price cut.

Key has said the commission's report posed problems for the rollout of UFB in that it would substantially reduce Chorus' income and its "capacity around broadband".

Patterson suggested that amounted to "undue political interference".

Patterson stood down as telecommunications commissioner in July after the Government chose not to reappoint him for a second five-year term. He is currently chairman of Akhet Consulting in Dubai.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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