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NZ set to stagnate in broadband rankings

By TOM PULLAR-STRECKER - The Dominion Post | Monday, 29 October 2007
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New Zealand looks set to remain in 21st place when the OECD issues its broadband world rankings this week and, on current trends, its ranking is unlikely to change before next year's election.

Statistics supplied by Telecom and Portuguese telecommunications regulator Anacom show New Zealand had 15.7 broadband connections per hundred people at the end of June, one more than Portugal. But data compiled by European researcher Point Topic suggests it is a long way from overhauling either Italy or Spain.

A rare written question from National Party communications spokesman Maurice Williamson to Communications Minister David Cunliffe in May suggests National may use the lack of progress ascending the OECD table as ammunition in its election campaign.

This would be to counter any attempt by Labour to capitalise on its populist reforms of the industry.

Mr Williamson asked Mr Cunliffe how New Zealand's ranking compared with its position in 2000, soon after Labour came into power. It was unchanged, though New Zealand dipped to 22nd between 2003 and 2006.

The written question was one of only a handful levelled at Mr Cunliffe by Mr Williamson since he took back National's communications portfolio in August 2004. Since the last election he has made no media statements on IT or communications policy, maintaining a low profile that led Mr Cunliffe to dub him "the invisible man".

Telecom says the total number of fixed-line broadband connections sold by the company and its wholesale customers rose by about 100,000 to 604,175 in the six months to the end of June. It supplies nearly 90 per cent of the broadband connections counted by the OECD in its six-monthly statistics.

Telecom Wholesale spokeswoman Melanie Marshall says the telco added another 41,000 customers in the three months to September, indicating there has since been no significant change in pace.

OECD Paris-based statistician Taylor Reynolds, who is responsible for compiling the OECD's broadband statistics, says its official figures for the June half-year should be available on Thursday.

There will be no change to the way the figures are compiled, despite criticism the league table ignores subscriptions to 3G mobile broadband services.

Australian research firm Market Clarity said in May that it made more sense to measure the number of broadband connections per 100 households, rather than 100 people. Household sizes vary through the OECD and it would rarely be necessary for a household to have more than one fixed-line broadband service, it said.

Dr Reynolds says the OECD plans to issue more information about the cost and quality of broadband at the same time as publishing its June rankings.

"There have been some misunderstandings floating around concerning the amount of data we collect. Some have assumed that broadband subscriber penetration figures were all we did.

"We actually have an extensive list of broadband data including subscribers, household usage, business usage and prices". 

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