April 12, 2021

Out with the copper in with the glass – The Copper Withdrawal Code

Since the first landline telephones in 1881, Aotearoa has been connected by a network of copper cables, the same technology that in 1989 put Aotearoa universities in touch with the world wide web. For most of us however, a copper connection will soon be a distant memory, as we come to rely on a fibre optic network.

As part of Aotearoa’s bid to provide world-class connectivity to every home in the country, the government passed the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Act 2018 which required the Commerce Commission to prepare the Copper Withdrawal Code (the “Code”). The purpose of the Code, which came into force on 1 March 2021, is to ensure consumers are adequately protected during the upgrade of the country’s communication networks from copper to fibre optic cabling.

Click here for more information from the Commerce Commission's website.

The Code applies where Chorus seeks to cease supplying a copper service to:

  • an end-user (being a person who has a contract with a retail service provider (such as 2 Degree’s, Spark, or Vodafone);
  • a retail service provider or a relevant fibre service provider (wholesale service providers such as Northpower Fibre, UltraFast Fibre, Enable Networks but not Chorus, which is excluded from the Code’s definition).

The Code creates requirements that Chorus must comply with before it can stop providing a copper service.

The Code requires Chorus to comply with specified notice requirements where it proposes to withdraw a copper service. In the case of ends users, Chorus must give end users at least six months’ notice of any proposed withdrawal of the copper services, as well as information about how to order and connect a fibre service.

This notice then triggers notification requirements in respect of the retail service provider and relevant fibre service provider. If following receipt of Chorus’ notice, an end user then places an order with a retail service provider for a fibre service connection to be installed, the relevant fibre service provider must install one within a reasonable timeframe before Chorus stops supplying the copper service and at no cost to the person placing the order.

Chorus can only stop supplying copper services where end users can access the same services over the fibre network. In areas where fibre is not currently available Chorus must continue to supply copper services.

If an end user chooses not to install a fibre connection following the initial notice from Chorus, Chorus is required to provide a further notice to that end user before the copper services can be discontinued for that end user.  

If end users have a complaint relating to Chorus’ compliance with Code, then they can raise the complaint with the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Service (TDRS). TDRS is an independent service that helps consumers manage complaints about telecommunications products and services. Click here for more information.

While the Code came into effect on 1 March 2021, Chorus is not permitted to stop supplying copper services under the Code until at least 1 September 2021.  

Chorus claims to have already connected 580,000 homes to fibre and made 1,150,000 “fibre ready”. For many people the change to fibre is already a reality. However after the first stage of the Government’s Ultrafast Broadband (“UFB”)Initiative, 21% of Aotearoa was unconnected to fibre. Upon the UFB Initiative’s completion in 2022, 13% of Aotearoa will remain unconnected to fibre.

For those who are not able to access a fibre network and for those who rely on services operating on copper cabling such as corded telephones and medical alarms, the Code ensures they do not get left behind. This also allows the time to arrange for solutions that fit their needs in a copper-free country.

Although we are not as old as the copper network, we have extensive experience with the telco industry. If you have any questions or are wondering how you could use our expertise in your business, please get in touch.

This article was written by Anchali Anandanayagam and Andrew Rose.

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