UFB links to homes cause 3-way dispute

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2013

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A row appears to be brewing between Telecom, Chorus and Crown Fibre Holdings after Telecom said some customers would have to pay to get ultrafast broadband connected to their homes.

The company began selling UFB to about 100,000 homes where it is available on Thursday but has now acknowledged its initial service is unlikely to appeal to the 30 per cent of consumers who have overhead copper phone lines coming into their houses.

Telecom said that if a home already had an overhead phone line, Chorus would need to charge to dig a trench to deliver UFB, but a Crown Fibre spokesman said it was "very clear" installation charges were not within the rules.

The issue has arisen because of the Resource Management Act and Telecom's plan to deliver UFB while retaining customers' copper phone lines.

Telecom hopes to develop a phone service that will run over UFB by the end of the year. But until then it is relying on customers' existing copper phone lines to support home phones and to connect low-speed devices such as home and medical alarms and Sky Television set-top boxes.

Chorus spokeswoman Melanie Marshall said the Resource Management Act prevented Chorus running a second cable into homes for UFB if it already had an overhead copper phone line.

Chorus was talking to Telecom about how to mitigate the restriction. One option might be to combine the copper and fibre-optic lines into a single cable.

But Telecom spokeswoman Holly Linnell said that, for now, customers with overhead phone lines would need to pay Chorus to dig a trench for UFB, unless they happened to have an existing open trench available, in which case there would be a flat charge of $150.

Given the cost and that Telecom expected to have a UFB-based phone service by the end of the year that would do away with the need for a copper line, all customers with overhead phone lines who had inquired about UFB had chosen to wait, she said.

However, the Crown Fibre spokesman said it was clear Chorus must connect end users who wanted UFB at no cost. "How existing services are dealt with commercially is a matter for Chorus and Telecom," he said.

Telecom's contract with Crown Fibre meant Telecom had to retail UFB in cities wherever Chorus had laid UFB from the start of this month, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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