The Commerce Commission will week public submissions on the benefits of rolling out fibre on rural electricity infrastructure, a move welcome by Communications Minister Amy Adams.
The committee is consulting on the issue as part of the Telecommunications (Property Access and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. The proposal provides the right for fibre optic cables to be added to existing electricity corridors, without the need to renegotiate the terms of access with each landowner.
In return, landowners will be able to connect to an Ultra Fast Broadband service on the terms set out in the Bill.
According to Adams, the committee has opened up a short, second round of public consultation on the technicalities of the proposal to ensure those affected can have their say and that there aren't unintended consequences.
“As the broadband rollout moves into more economically challenging areas, it's important to consider other ways to increase the opportunities to deploy fibre,” Adams explains.
“One way might be using existing electricity lines for fibre,” she says.
“The Government looked at this issue as part of our Land Access Reform Package, but some lingering questions around support from land owners and impacts on property rights meant it was put aside for further work while the other reforms progressed,” Adams says.
“Despite it not being part of the original Bill, over half of all submissions were in favour of the idea,” she says.
“There are obvious benefits to the proposal, such as improved rural connectivity in an innovative and cost effective way, but these need to respect property rights.
Adams says it was important the committee hears from rural communities and encouraged rural landowners to look at the proposal and submit on the issue.
“One of the issues I'm keen to get the public's views on is how far the free fibre connection might need to go,” she says.
“The committee wants to test maximum distance scenarios of 200 metres to 500 metres, and I would be interested in seeing how many land owners might need connections up to 500 metres,” Adams adds.
“I want to thank the Select Committee for their work on this proposal, particularly chair Melissa Lee who has guided the Committee ably throughout this process.
The public will only get a week for submissions on this proposal, closing on 10 November.