This week, telcos and internet providers are poring over the Commerce Commission's draft decision on ye olde copper phone line network and the unbundled bitstream access service running over them.

While not final, the price set by the telco commissioner Dr Stephen Gale and staffers has angered just about everyone. The cost of a copper line and broadband on top will be $38.39 a month, up from $34.44 before.

It used to be $44.98 a month, plus GST. "There appears to be uniquely New Zealand factors, such as the dispersed nature of the rural network," that makes our unbundled copper lines prices different from overseas charges.

Read more:
Spark price warning after Chorus win

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"Dispersed" is not how I've heard the rural network being described by infuriated customers connected to hand me down equipment from city exchanges but let's leave that for now and see what the industry has to say.

"Bad for consumers, bad for competition" Callplus boss Mark Callander told me. He later on added that the price hike for the Unbundled Copper Local Loop (UCLL) is "a kick in the guts for unbundlers" or telcos and providers who have put their own gear into exchanges.

Spark didn't expect having to pay another fiver for residential or business lines with both broadband and voice. "We feel we have no choice but to undertake a review of our current pricing across both voice and broadband plans," Spark chief executive Simon Moutter growled.

Vodafone, which has an interesting mix of networks - mobile, cable, its own copper lines bought with TelstraClear, and unbundled circuits - said pretty much the same thing as Spark. Retail pricing's dropped but Chorus' wholesale pricing hasn't changed said Craig Jones at Vodafone. "Vodafone is very disappointed with the Commerce Commission's proposed price increase for copper services," Jones said.

In one of the strongest worded releases I've ever seen from InternetNZ, the lobby group said it is "displeased that today's announcement of a draft final pricing principle for copper broadband hasn't provided the certainty the industry needs." It's not clear if the new pricing will be backdated - or not.

The Telecommunications Users' Association of New Zealand was disappointed too that the wholesale copper pricing was jacked up by four bucks.

Usually when important missives from the ComCom arrive, they're quickly followed by a brief message from the appropriate minister. Not this time, but opposition ICT spokesperson Clare Curran let fly saying "the only people happy with this outcome seem to be the government and Chorus".

Nobody seems particularly keen to wade through "a monster set of documents" over the summer hols in order to prepare for submissions on the draft pricing either.

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Not everyone's unhappy though. Chorus doesn't seem to worked up that the pricing, while revised upwards, still means an $80 million instead of $170 million annualised reduction in earnings, based on connection numbers from September this year.

The network company still thinks it should get more money though. At a highly optimised pinch, the copper network is apparently worth around $13 billion which translates into a wholesale UCLL/UBA cost of something like $75 a month.


Source: Chorus

In other, slightly old news by now, we used 53,068 terabytes of Internet data in June this year. This, Stats NZ says, is equivalent to 12GB for each New Zealander.

That data is being exchanged on copper Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) of which there are 1.3 million connections. Copper is a substantial market for Chorus, but it is declining.

Fibre meanwhile is growing at a rate of knots and connections are up three fold over last year but... it's still a minnow in comparison with just 46,000 connections. If the rate of growth continues at today's levels however, Stats NZ believes fibre connections would overtake DSL lines within five years.

Lucky Chorus has a dog in the UFB fight as well then.

Tweets from the other side

Someone following me retweeted a tweet by Joan Rivers which was spooky as she passed away in September this year.

Turns out it's her daughter Melissa driving the account now:

The account is verified as being Joan Rivers, which is clearly not possible. Will Twitter be brave enough to remove the verification? There's nothing in the terms and conditions for verified accounts that covers a situation when someone dies and their relatives start tweeting in their names.

Gothic and 2014, but not the the first time Rivers has been dug up.

Gear: Motorola Moto G Gen 2

I quite liked the second generation Moto G: it's a good size, has a decent screen, long battery life and snappy performance.

Plus, you get two SIM card slots which may come in handy, and it's affordable at approximately $250 or so which is great.

The small 8GB of storage and average camera you can live with, but not the lack of 4G LTE support - the Moto G only does HSDPA+ 3G. Next please.

Chorus shares surge to 14-month high

Chorus shares surged to a 14-month high as investors continued to pile into the firm following a proposed increase in the price it can charge customers for copper line access.

The Auckland-based lines company's stock rose 9.16 per cent to close at $2.74 last night - the highest level since early October 2013. More than 10 million Chorus shares, worth $28.2 million, changed hands.

Yesterday's rally came after Tuesday's 17 per cent increase in the share price and a 3.6 per cent lift on Monday, the day before the Commerce Commission's copper price announcement, bringing the total gains this week to 32.7 per cent.

The commission's draft determination lifted the proposed price telecommunications firms like Spark pay for access to Chorus' copper lines to $38.39, up from the $34.44 regulated price that came into effect on December 1, before which the price was $44.98. Spark lost ground on Tuesday and fell further yesterday, closing down 1.82 per cent at $2.97.

Chorus says the draft pricing still represents an $80 million reduction in annual ebitda, but that is an improvement on the $170 million yearly cut previously anticipated.

Spark chief executive Simon Moutter warned on Tuesday that retail customers could face increased prices as a result of the proposed lift in wholesale copper rates.