Free Chorus UFB connections? Hold the line, caller

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On Wednesday, Orcon boss Scott Bartlett was confident that Chorus would extend its free UFB connection period beyond the end of the year.

A spokesman for Chorus gave NBR a muted response, however, telling NBR, "It's too early to say. We're still working through the details with Crown Fibre Holdings and hope to be able to provide more clarity in the coming weeks."

According to what Mr Bartlett has heard, Chorus pushed for a compromise - a $99 standard connection fee - but Crown Fibre is pushing for totally free connection.

Which is how Mr Bartlett thinks it should be. "We've already paid for it as taxpayers," he told NBR ONLINE.

The government - through Crown Fibre Holdings - has chipped $1.35 billion into the Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) rollout, most of that in Chorus shares and an interest-free loan to the Telecom spin-off.

Mr Bartlett also riled about UFB uptake being to slow. His company only had 200 active customers, he said (though a robust 8500 on a wait-list).

TV push?
The Orcon boss also wanted Crown Fibre to run TV ads to goose demand, as the Australian government is doing for its National Broadband Network. 

NBR put these points to ICT Minister Amy Adams, who responded:

“The government has played a major role to date by negotiating UFB and RBI [rural broadband initative] contracts, but it is the role of industry to ensure that enticing product offerings are available, and that services are well priced, reliable and meet quality expectations," Ms Adams said.

"In terms of residential uptake, it was always our expectation, based on overseas experience, that uptake would build gradually over the period of the network build.

"It takes time for products to be developed for the market and for people to recognise the value of UFB. It’s like cellphones; to begin with, a few people had them and then gradually more and more. Now most people can’t think of their lives without a cellphone. I expect UFB will follow a similar trajectory."

Ms Adams reiterated the government was prioritising education, health, government and business for the rollout. As a significant investor in the UFB, it saw those as the areas the rollout could make a real difference.

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