Gale avoids broadband pricing row

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

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Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale has declined to be drawn into a row between his predecessor, Ross Patterson, and the Government over broadband policy.

Patterson yesterday accused the Government of "unprecedented" interference for threatening to legislate over a draft determination by Gale on the price internet providers should have to pay to supply broadband over Chorus' copper network.

He said if the Government was considering "artificially increasing" the cost of copper-based broadband in a bid to increase uptake of the Crown-backed ultrafast broadband network, that policy was "doomed to failure".

A commission spokeswoman said as it was now working through the price determination process and taking submissions, it had no comment. Communications Minister Amy Adams could not be reached for comment.

The price of broadband could fall by about $12 a month in two years' time if internet providers pass on 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 ruled out using legislation to overturn the proposed price cut.

Patterson suggested that amounted to "undue political interference".

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