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Transpower fingered in regulator's list for telecommunications levy; Sky TV out

Tuesday 24th July 2012

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State-owned electricity grid operator Transpower New Zealand may have to stump up funds for an annual levy to pay for commercially non-viable telecommunications services, though pay-television operator Sky Network Television won't.

The grid operator has been added to the Commerce Commission's list of companies liable for the Telecommunications Development Levy, which replaces the old Telecommunication Service Obligation that Telecom has operated under. That means Transpower may have to contribute to the $50 million levy in the 2011/12 year.

"We believe Transpower qualifies as a liable person as they have a component of a PTN (public telecommunications network), which is used to provide backhaul capacity," a commission spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The final notice fingers 29 companies that are considered likely to contribute, with Transpower, and local internet service providers and Maxnet the only additions to the list.

The regulator will now consult on what revenue will count toward sharing out the levy obligation.

The regulator stuck to its draft notification in April that content providers, such as Sky, will be excluded because they don't qualify as telecommunications network operators.

"Only fixed or wireless public network operators qualify for the levy," regulation general manager John Hamill said in a statement. "The list of 29 companies therefore includes the new local fibre companies and Chorus, but excludes Sky and other content providers."

The levy also cuts out other over-the-counter service providers such as Skype, as they don't appear to operate a component of the network in New Zealand. International cable firm Southern Cross Cable Network was also excluded as it wasn't deemed to operate a telecommunications service in New Zealand.

The TSO, formerly known as the Kiwi Share, was used to pay for telecommunications infrastructure where it isn't immediately profitable to do so, such as in rural areas. Its replacement is a contestable fund that officially starts this year, and will initially meet the government's $300 million rural broadband initiative.

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