22 Jun 2015

Ministry defends stance on UFB battery back-up

2:19 pm on 22 June 2015

The Ministry overseeing the rollout of ultra fast broadband (UFB) has downplayed a decision to not emphasise the pitfalls of switching from copper to fibre.

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

Crown Fibre Holdings - which is in charge of the Government's $2 billion UFB rollout - wanted to insure service providers such as Spark and Vodafone had to offer battery backup.

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

The ministry's ICT policy and programme manager, Chris Bishop, said it was about giving consumers choice.

"We don't need to go and provide all of the solutions to consumers, and so what I'm re-iterating again is that every time somebody signs up to a fibre plan, that it is communicated to them, in writing at least that they're encouraged to get a battery back up."

But Mr Bishop could not say how many people actually read the fineprint.

Craig Young from the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) said the lobby group was working with the industry to try to ensure those installing broadband were more upfront.

"You probably don't even know where to find a product disclosure code, for a product that's being sold by Spark. You want to be told on the phone when you get this service that it won't work when the power goes off, there should be a requirement on service providers to be a lot more upfront about these sorts of things."

Batteries can be bought for about $100 and Mr Young said telcos could upsell those to consumers.

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