22 Jun 2015

Why did a Government agency stop battery backups?

From Nine To Noon, 9:10 am on 22 June 2015

Nine to Noon has found that the requirement for companies installing Ultra Fast Broadband to offer battery backup was scrapped after a Government agency intervened.

UFB services will not work if the power goes out, leaving phone and alarm services vulnerable to outages.

In May Nine to Noon highlighted the pitfalls of phone and alarm services on fibre being useless in a power cut without battery back up.

Now in response to an Official Information Act request we've found that the option of consumers being offered back-up batteries when they get UFB installed was considered, but thrown out.

Crown Fibre Holdings – which is in charge of the Government's two billion dollar UFB rollout – was initially going to ensure service providers like Spark and Vodafone had to offer battery backup.

But it was told by the then Ministry of Economic Development, now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment- MBIE, to drop the requirement, as there was "no policy basis" to include it.

That was in August 2011, seven months after the Christchurch earthquake when more than 50,000 households lost power and phone services.

On Nine to Noon this morning Kathryn Ryan talked to Chris Bishop, ICT Policy and Programme Manager at MBIE, and Telecommunications Users Association NZ (TUANZ) chief executive, Craig Young.