The Commerce Commission has started consulting on consumer safeguards that will apply from January 1, 2020 - when new telco law will kick in that allows Chorus to stop offering voice and broadband services over copper lines in areas with UFB fibre.

In other words, for most households, it will be a choice of fibre or nothing.

"To ensure consumers are not disadvantaged, we will be developing a copper withdrawal code that sets out the rules that must be followed before Chorus can stop providing copper services in neighbourhoods where fibre is available," Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said.

"For example, the code will require that before the copper service can be withdrawn an equivalent fibre service is readily available at no additional cost to the consumer."


Chorus cannot stop providing these copper services until it meets all the consumer protections that will be in the copper withdrawal code.

One further component will be a 'Commission 111 contact code' that will require retailers to ensure that 'vulnerable consumers' have - at no cost - an appropriate means of contacting 111 for emergency services in the event of a power outage (copper line phones work during a power cut; phones designed for a fibre network do not).

InternetNZ outreach director Andrew Cushen said the ComCom's consultation process should give consumers confidence as they face the mandatory move from copper to fibre from 2020.

However, Cushen added, "There's a strong theme of public concern about how the 111 service will be dealt with," given the inability of fibre connections to work during a power cut.

Cushen said it was possible phone companies would argue that cellphones are now so ubiquitous that a landline 111 service would not be needed after 2020. But it was also possible that they would find another workaround.

Emergency calls to 111 or 112 are free, and a mobile will try to connect the nearest available network, regardless of what phone company you have an account with.

Submissions can be made via the ComCom's website and close on February 14.