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Commission releases proposed approach for emergency calling

Press Release – Commerce Commission

The Commerce Commission has released a consultation paper outlining its emerging views and proposed approach to establishing the 111 Contact Code.12 September 2019
The Commerce Commission has released a consultation paper outlining its emerging views and proposed approach to establishing the 111 Contact Code.

The Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) programme will see 87% of homes and businesses able to connect to fibre networks by the end of 2022. The Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative is also improving broadband connections in rural areas, largely using wireless technology.

As consumers move away from using the old copper telephone network to using new technologies such as fibre, a small number may be unable to call 111 during a power cut. This is because unlike copper, newer technologies rely on electricity in the home to work.

Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said the 111 Contact Code is intended to outline the steps telecommunications providers must take to ensure consumers can continue to call emergency services in a power cut when they move to new technologies.

“The transition to fibre and wireless technologies is well underway and once fibre has been rolled out in areas, and we have put a number of safeguards in place, Chorus will be able to choose to stop supplying copper services. As the copper network is gradually withdrawn there may be a small number of New Zealanders who could be left without the means to call 111 during an emergency if they have a power failure. The 111 Contact Code we are developing is intended to put in place protections for those vulnerable consumers,” Dr Gale said.

“The consultation paper released today sets out our proposed approach to establishing the Code, including how we should determine who is vulnerable. We propose to test if a consumer is vulnerable based on the technology they have access to and whether it will work during a power cut. We also explore what some of the appropriate alternatives for consumers to contact emergency services might be. Our initial proposal is that mobile phones are provided for those who have coverage and can use one, and a battery back-up for the fixed line phone otherwise. We are keen to hear from industry and consumer groups as we begin to develop the details of the Code.”

A copy of the consultation paper and an infographic can be found on the Commission’s website. Consumers can also use the online form provided to respond to four key questions we are keen to hear from them on. Submissions close on 11 October 2019.

This is the first step in developing the 111 Contact Code. A draft Code is due to be released for consultation in February 2020, with the final Code to be published in June 2020.

Background

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) 2018 review of the Telecommunications Act 2001 (Act) identified that as consumers transition away from the copper network to next generation technologies, they may be unable to access emergency services during a power outage and are therefore potentially vulnerable. Parliament decided to make amendments to the Act to address access to the 111 emergency service in the event of a power failure. It tasked the Commission with creating a Code that protects consumers by imposing obligations on providers of telecommunications services. We must create the Code by no later than 1 January 2022.
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