Ministers launch education portal

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education
Hon Nikki Kaye
Associate Minister of Education

22 March 2014 Media Statement

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye today launched a new digital portal for teachers, students and education administrators with Crown-owned company Network for Learning (N4L).

 

Ms Parata says the Government has invested $211 million in the N4L managed network as a fully funded package for schools and has also tasked the company with developing the portal.

 

“Through the N4L managed network, the Government is picking up the cost to provide schools with safe, predictable and fast internet with uncapped data, content filtering and network security services.

 

“It will also provide greater accessibility to a growing collection of teaching and learning resources through this portal.

 

“The portal will provide schools with access to trusted, high-quality learning resources and will make safe, online collaboration easy.

“Technology, and digital learning, are part of our modernising of the education system to raise achievement for all our children and young people.

“The pace at which schools are connecting to the Government-funded managed network service is encouraging, and we’re expecting 700 schools to connect by the end of this year. All schools will be invited to connect by 2016,” Ms Parata says.

 

“It is great to be launching this portal today and that we now have a collaborative online environment where students and teachers will soon be able to connect, and share information,” Ms Kaye says.

 

“A number of teachers and principals are now testing this new digital space. During this first phase, they have been able to access and review material. At the heart of the portal’s functionality is the ability for teachers and students to create, share and rate the quality and usefulness of content.

 

“A handful of teachers and principals have been putting the portal’s search and sharing functionalities to the test. Their vital feedback has helped N4L to continue to develop a robust and useful tool for the whole education sector.

 

“It can be a challenge for teachers and students to find information that they can trust. N4L is working hard to ensure that information from key government agencies will be accessible through the portal, including the Ministry of Education’s Te Kete Ipurangi, which provides schools and students with a wide range of trusted information and resources.

 

“N4L have told me that around 500 teachers will be invited to explore the portal early next month and that all educators will have access by the end of this year,” Ms Kaye says.

 

More information about the portal is available on the N4L website:

www.n4l.co.nz/pond

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Better broadband information for consumers goes live

Hon Amy Adams

Minister for Communications and Information Technology

20 March 2014

Media Statement

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the introduction of a code of practice to improve the transparency of broadband product information for consumers.

The code has been developed by the Telecommunications Forum (TCF) in response to a request from Ms Adams that improvements be made to make broadband offerings easier to understand and compare.

“Consumers can now see the same basic set of information about competing broadband plans being offered by the main telecommunications companies,” Ms Adams says.

“As the Ultra-Fast Broadband build progresses, the number of people signing up for broadband is continuing to increase, as well as the number of retail providers.

“These changes will make it easier for people to compare what different providers are offering, and to know if they are signing up for a package that meets their needs.”

The code covers existing residential, fixed-line broadband plans, as well as UFB.  The code is compulsory for TCF members.

Standard information for consumers now includes all costs, termination fees, minimum contract periods, service availability, contract term, data caps and any traffic management policies that could affect speeds or access.  The information is expressed using consistent terminology, in an agreed format.

It also requires information about broadband speeds to be verified by an independent testing service, so customers have a clearer understanding of what speeds they can expect. This aspect is continuing to be developed.

“The code of practice is a good start towards greater transparency for consumers, however I would like to see the code extended in future to include mobile and wireless broadband,” Ms Adams says.

For more information about the code of practice, go to: http://www.tcf.org.nz/bpd

 

 


 

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Minister welcomes UFB progress

Hon Amy Adams

Minister for Communications and Information Technology

11 March, 2014

              Media Statement

 

 

Information and Communications Technology Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the agreement by Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus on the first tranche of amendments to the companies’ Ultra-Fast Broadband contract.

 

The changes agreed by Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus are intended to close some of the funding gap that was identified in the Government-commissioned independent report by Ernst & Young Australia (EY).

 

The EY report investigated Chorus’ capability to deliver on its contractual commitments with the Government, in light of the Commerce Commission’s decisions on final wholesale prices for copper-based broadband services.

 

The report identified a gap of $1 billion and indicated that a significant portion of this could be met from Chorus undertaking cost savings measures and changes to its dividend and debt policies – leaving a residual gap of $200 million to $250 million.

 

“The Government has been very clear that Chorus is expected to meet the major part of the funding shortfall identified in the EY report,” Ms Adams says.

 

“Our priority is to ensure the rollout of UFB to New Zealanders is not put at risk. For this reason, the Government supported Crown Fibre Holdings beginning discussions with Chorus about possible adjustments to the companies’ UFB contracts to help reduce the residual gap.

 

“The Government’s UFB initiative has a budget of $1.35 billion and Crown Fibre Holdings is required to act within this fiscal envelope. The changes announced today are within this budget.

 

“The high level framework for the UFB programme is not affected as a result of today’s announcement.

 

“Most of the changes are about giving Chorus greater flexibility to manage the roll out in the most efficient way to reduce cost.

 

“Importantly for customers, these changes will make no difference to UFB service levels and speeds.

 

“The overall timeframe for the roll out, the start and completion dates for each candidate area, the coverage area, and the completion date for priority users are all unchanged.

 

“I am advised that talks between Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus are on-going in respect to possible further adjustments to the companies’ contract.

 

“The next steps and timing are a matter for Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus to determine.”

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More than a quarter of UFB project complete

Hon Amy Adams Minister for Communications and Information Technology
12 February 2014
Media Statement

More than a quarter of UFB project complete

More than a quarter of the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband project has been completed, Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has announced.

Ms Adams has today released the latest quarterly report on the Government’s ultra-fast broadband and rural broadband programmes.

Over the three months to 31 December 2013, a further 40,630 end users gained access to fibre.

This brings the total number of end users who can connect to the UFB network to 363,109 people, meaning 27 per cent of the project has been completed.

Under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), more than 179,000 rural homes and businesses now have access to fast wireless broadband, and over 60,000 rural homes and businesses have access to improved copper broadband services.

Vodafone installed 16 new towers and upgraded a further 60 towers under the RBI.

More than 2000 schools now have fibre installed and ready for service.

In addition, 39 of the most remote rural schools in New Zealand now have access to broadband capable of peak speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (about four times faster than previous services).

In all, more than 80 per cent of all schools who will be covered by the programme can now connect to faster broadband.

Over the last quarter, the number of customers signing up to a service under the UFB programme has jumped by about 40 per cent, taking the total number to nearly 20,000.

This is in line with government expectations and overseas experiences at this stage of deployment, when there is still six more years to complete the UFB build.

Note to journalists: Attached is a quarterly broadband deployment update (1 October – 31 December 2013).

 

Media contact: Nathan Beaumont 021 243 8412

Ultra-Fast Broadband background: UFB is a government programme to expand and develop New Zealand’s broadband services.

UFB will bring fibre optic technology to businesses, schools, hospitals, marae and homes, enabling 75 per cent of New Zealanders to access fibre to the premise by the end of 2019.

Schools, hospitals and 90 per cent of businesses in the coverage area will be connected by the end of 2015.  Homes and the remaining 10 per cent of businesses will be connected by the end of 2019.

Fibre will be capable of peak speeds of at least 100 Mbps. The Government is contributing $1.35 billion to the initiative, with further investment by the UFB partners.

Rural Broadband Initiative background: The RBI has been implemented by the Government to address the specific broadband infrastructure needs of rural New Zealand. The Government is contributing $300 million, with further investment from the RBI partners.

It will bring high-speed broadband to 252,000 customers, enabling 86 per cent of rural houses and businesses to access broadband peak speeds of at least 5Mbps, through fixed wireless and improved copper services.

Combined with the UFB programme, it will mean 97.8 per cent of New Zealanders will have access to faster broadband.

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Commerce Commission releases UBA process and issues paper

7 February 2014
The Commerce Commission has today released a paper which outlines the proposed process for pricing Chorus’ wholesale broadband – the unbundled bitstream access
(UBA) service – according to the ‘Final Pricing Principle’ in the Telecommunications Act.

The Commission determined the UBA price in November at $10.92, according to the Act’s Initial Pricing Principle, that is, by international benchmarking. The industry has since called for the Commission to reassess that price according to the Final Pricing Principle, by undertaking an engineering model calculation of UBA costs in New Zealand.

The Commission has set a date of 1 December 2014 for completing this work.

“The new UBA price takes effect on 1 December and will have a significant impact on the New Zealand fixed-line telecommunications market. It’s important the Commission takes steps to provide certainty by setting a final price by this date,” said Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale.

The Commission proposes to determine the UBA price by modelling the cost of providing the UBA service on Chorus’ existing copper network, or in some regions, on ‘Rural Broadband Initiative’ fixed wireless.

The Commission is seeking views on its proposed approach. For more information please see the Commerce Commission website www.comcom.govt.nz/uba-final-pricing-principle-price-review.

Submissions close 5pm Friday 21 February 2014.

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Final 700 MHz spectrum block auctioned

Media release

22 January 2014

 

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has today announced that Telecom has won the final block of 700 MHz radio spectrum.

 

Telecom bid $83 million (+GST) for the final block of spectrum.

 

Under the auction rules, Telecom’s bid for the final block is conditional on it obtaining clearance from the Commerce Commission to acquire the spectrum.

 

Radio spectrum management rights are deemed to be business assets and are therefore subject to the competition provisions of the Commerce Act 1986.

 

In the first round of the auction in October last year, three bidders were each entitled to bid for three spectrum blocks. However, 2degrees only bid for two blocks, leaving one block unsold.

 

Following the final round of the auction, the results of the 700 MHz auction are (subject to Commerce Commission clearance):

  • Telecom: 2×20 MHz (four blocks)
  • Vodafone: 2×15 MHz (three blocks)
  • 2degrees: 2×10 MHz (two blocks)

Under the auction terms, bidders who acquire three blocks of radio spectrum must build at least five new cell sites each year, for five years.

 

As a condition of winning the final spectrum block and having four blocks of 700 MHz radio spectrum, Telecom will be required to build ten new cell sites each year for five years, in areas that it does not currently cover.

 

All successful bidders will also be required to upgrade 75 per cent of their existing rural cell sites to 4G, up to a maximum of 300 sites.

 

The auction conditions are designed to ensure that at least 90 per cent of New Zealanders have access to a 4G network and faster mobile broadband coverage within five years.

 

4G mobile broadband services are capable of speeds up to ten times faster than existing mobile data networks, and are expected to help meet growing consumer demand for mobile data.

 

Indications are that by using the spectrum for 4G mobile networks, economic benefits for New Zealand of up to $2.4 billion can be expected over the next twenty years.

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Over 200 schools signed up to managed network

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education
Hon Nikki Kaye
Associate Minister
of Education

17 January 2014 Media Statement

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye say 212 schools have signed agreements to connect to the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network.

 

“The pace of connecting schools is gaining momentum. As of today, 212 schools have signed agreements and these communities will be looking forward to being connected in the near future,” Ms Parata says.

 

“This is great news for our children as they begin the new schooling year over the next couple of weeks.

 

“Their learning is the most critical element in education and we want to ensure we are supporting their needs in a technologically savvy environment,” Ms Parata says.

 

“All these schools are expected to connect to the managed network within the next few months,” Ms Kaye says.

 

“Forty-nine of these schools have already connected and are now able to take full advantage of the Government funded connection provided by the N4L managed network.

 

“Through the managed network, the Government is picking up the cost to provide schools with safe, predictable and fast internet with uncapped data, content filtering and network security services.

 

“This package reduces ICT complexity and provides significant savings for schools. All schools will be invited to connect to the managed network by the end of 2016.

 

“This progress is ahead of schedule and means the company is well placed to connect at least 700 schools by the end of 2014 as expected,” Ms Kaye says.

 

The Government has committed $211 million over eight years to establish the managed network and provide schools with a funded connection to it.

 

The N4L network runs over the best mix of ultra-fast, rural, and remote broadband available in New Zealand.

 

Schools that have signed agreements to connect and those currently connected are listed on the N4L website, see:

http://www.n4l.co.nz/schoolswithsignedagreements/

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Commerce Commission releases latest retail price benchmarking for telco services

 

Issued 23 December 2013

Release No. 65

The Commerce Commission has released its third report benchmarking New Zealand retail prices for fixed-line phone and broadband services against international prices. A report benchmarking retail prices in New Zealand’s mobile markets will be published in early 2014.

Retail price benchmarking gives an indication of the competitiveness of New Zealand telecommunications markets by comparing prices paid for telecommunications services by New Zealand customers with the prices paid by customers in other OECD countries.

Most customers now buy broadband together with phone services. Prices for a bundle with 60GB of data have dropped 14 percent over the past two years. However, these bundles are still priced 30 percent higher than the OECD average.

For broadband bought without phone services – called naked broadband – New Zealand’s pricing for average data consumption is more competitive. For customers with a 60GB broadband plan prices have dropped 41 percent in two years and are 4 percent less than the OECD average, however, these prices are only available to subscribers with an on-account mobile.

The pricing of residential fixed-line voice services purchased without broadband continues to be considerably higher than the OECD average for the average customer. However, competition from mobile and other services appears to have stopped Telecom from further raising its standard residential line rental, which has stayed at $50 a month since June 2011.

For heavy phone users, the story is better. Prices for this group have reduced by about a third since 2011 to a little under the OECD average. The key reason for this is Telecom’s introduction of unlimited national calling for $10 more than the standard line rental.

You can view the report, as well as previous ones, on the Commission’s website at: www.comcom.govt.nz/regulated-industries/telecommunications/market-monitoring-2/telecommunications-market-reports

Background

The Commerce Commission is responsible for monitoring and reporting on competition in telecommunications markets and on the performance and development of those markets.

Since 2007, the Commission has been releasing regular reports on the state of telecommunications markets in New Zealand and reporting on key developments. This report is one of a series of reports prepared and published by the Commission under the Telecommunications Act 2001.

Media contact:    Victoria Rogers, Senior Communications Adviser
Phone (04) 924 3735
Commission media releases can be viewed at:
www.comcom.govt.nz/the-commission/media-centre/media-releases/

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Labour Response to Chorus Report

David
CUNLIFFE
Labour Leader

15 December 2013 MEDIA STATEMENT

Labour Leader David Cunliffe says there is no case for a taxpayer bailout of Chorus based on the Ernst & Young report made public yesterday.

The EY report accepts Chorus’ revenue reduction forecast of $1billion over five years, but highlights measures that could reduce it to $200 – $250 million without any government intervention.

“EY indicates that almost half of the gap can be filled with offsetting operating and capital cost reduction and other revenue measures ($400 – $500m), halving the dividend rate to $90 million and increasing debt headroom ($130m).

“That leaves a revenue gap from the initial forecast of only $40 – $50million per year,” David Cunliffe said.

“Crucially Chorus’ dividend pay-out rate could be further reduced. Even at half its current rate it would still be above the average of benchmark New Zealand infrastructure companies.

“Taxpayers should not be asked to subsidise Chorus’ shareholders,” David Cunliffe said.

“Labour rejects a taxpayer subsidy; we reject the Government purchasing Chorus shares; we reject throttling back copper broadband speeds; and we reject renegotiating Chorus’ broadband contract.

“Labour considers further work is needed by EY to independently test Chorus’ revenue forecasts. EY should test further dividend reduction, capital raising and increased debt headroom to meet the remaining shortfall.

“Minister Amy Adams should also investigate the impact of the timing difference between the interim and final pricing policy decisions across both bitstream and access prices.

“What the Ernst & Young report makes plain is that Chorus’ revenue gap can be closed by normal commercial means. No case exists for the taxpayer to subsidise Chorus’ shareholders,” David Cunliffe said.

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Report on independent assessment of Chorus’ financial position released

Hon Amy Adams
Minister for Communications and Information Technology

14 December 2013 Media Statement

Download Report

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has today released the final report from Ernst & Young Australia on whether Chorus can deliver on its broadband contracts.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment commissioned Ernst & Young Australia to investigate Chorus’ capability to deliver on its Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) contractual commitments with the Government, in light of the Commerce Commission’s decisions on final wholesale prices for copper-based broadband services.

The independent report confirms the high level findings that were announced by the Government on 5 December.

“Copper price changes will have a significant impact on Chorus’ financial position, and the wide range of actions that Chorus can consider taking itself will not be sufficient to cover the funding shortfall to safeguard the UFB and RBI build commitments,” Ms Adams says.

“The report confirms the initial figures released by Chorus about the impact of copper price changes on its financial position, and lays to rest claims by some that the figures were overstated.”

 

The report finds that Chorus could reduce the estimated funding gap from $1 billion to between $200 million and $250 million by implementing a number of cash flow savings initiatives.

 

“The Government remains committed to the UFB and RBI programmes and now we can get on and ensure that faster broadband is rolled out to New Zealanders.”

 

Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) and Chorus have now begun discussions about possible adjustments to Chorus’ UFB contracts to help close the funding gap.

 

The Government’s UFB initiative has a budget of $1.35 billion and CFH is required to act within this fiscal envelope.

“The Government expects Chorus to meet a significant part of the shortfall.

“The Government will be monitoring closely the progress of discussions between CFH and Chorus.”

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