it seems to me that Chorus are continuing to look for ways to avoid paying for some UFB connection charges
Chorus’s reticence to pay non-standard UFB connection charges was back in the news in the same week that Telecom launched its new Ultra Fibre broadband service.

Both Stuff and the NBR reported on the issue which seems to stem from Chorus’ legal interpretations of the Resource Management Act consequent on Telecom’s apparent lack of readiness to offer a residential fibre service.

Telecom’s issue extends to two matters: one is about their lack of a billing system; the other about their lack of a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone service.

VOIP services have been available from independent telcos for many years.  Skype is but one example.  Most of Telecom’s competitors are already offering VOIP as an alternative to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) service.

By not having VOIP capability, Telecom is forced to retain its PSTN service in the short term.

Chorus’ problem occurs where that existing telephone service is provided to a home via overhead copper cables.  Because Telecom needs to retain the existing copper connection, Chorus must instal the new fibre connection as a second line from the street.

welcome-to-your-fibre-futurChorus are claiming that the visual pollution principles of the Resource Management Act prevents them from installing a second overhead cable from the street.  And so they are requiring the home owner to pay the installation cost of the second cable.

The issue was quickly dealt with by a Crown Fibre Holdings spokesperson who said “…it was clear Chorus must connect end users who wanted UFB, at no cost.”  That clarity comes from the extension of an agreement, negotiated in November 2012, between the government, Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus, covering non-standard UFB connections.

Having searched the RMA Act and found no such edict, it seems to me that Chorus are continuing to look for ways to avoid paying for some UFB connection charges.  A socially responsible Chorus would just get on with the job of undergrounding residential fibre drop leads, something that Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan requires them to do anyway.

In a separate issue and despite being two years in to the UFB program, Telecom has not yet completed a billing system for it’s new ultra fibre service.  Its work-around for this problem is that it will not charge for overage until the new billing system is in place.  This is not expected to be available “until later this year.”

So lucky urban dwellers, there is no need to purchase the more expensive plans for a while yet.

There are other issues in Telecom’s Ultra Fibre offering.

First is their offer of a “free modem and standard fibre connection” for residential customers.

Telecom’s pricing page  indicates that this free connection is available only on a 12 month contract.  Fair enough  for the modem.  But given that Telecom pays no wholesale costs for a customer to be connected, and that the connection is done by and at the cost of the local fibre company, it is hard to see a justification for a 12-month term condition.  This justification difficulty is reinforced by an absence of an alternative  ‘no term’ plan.

The answer lies in Chorus’ contract with RSPs (retail service providers), including Telecom.  This 33-page document stipulates a 12-month term for new connections.  Other RSPs also offer only a 12-month term for UFB connections.

So in reality, households cannot have a UFB connection unless they accept a 12-month contract – the term condition is not about modems or standard connections at all.

Second is that like most telcos, Telecom obfuscates the issue of actual broadband speeds compared to the theoretical maximum speeds that they sell their service against.  They say “…actual speeds will be affected by various factors including NZ and overseas networks, your modem and computer technology, internal home wiring and other environmental factors.”

This is all true enough but what they do not say is that actual speeds are also determined by how many users RSPs like Telecom, designate to use the same fibre connection.  The more users that are connected to one fibre, the lower the telcos costs per customer.  But also lower is the bandwidth available to any one user when everyone is on line at the same time.   This is called the contention ratio of a service and  is a matter of the RSP’s design of their network.

This deception is more evident and more significant in the rural RBI program where the consequence of contention, the Committed Information Rate of a service, is defined as being 45Kbps – around dial up speeds.

Rural Connect believes that RSPs must be required to declare technical aspects around their network design and that this must include the contention ratio between the end user and the RSP’s network.