New rules keep vulnerable people connected to emergency services

A Supplementary Order Paper introduced to Parliament by Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi will ensure vulnerable people can call 111 in an emergency using a supplied mobile phone or battery back-up.

The provision – part of the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill SOP – will provide an extra protection for vulnerable customers, as fibre fixed line services replace legacy copper fixed line services.

“New Zealand is in the process of transitioning away from copper-based infrastructure,” Mr Faafoi says, “where people will have access to a fibre-based landline if they want one. This will not operate if there is no power supply so I want to ensure access to emergency calling for all those who may need it.

“This new provision means telecommunications retail service providers will have to provide 111 calling in a similar way the security of service is in place for electricity supply. Electricity companies already have safeguards to ensure the health and safety of these vulnerable customers in a power outage.”

A new code will require that before infrastructure company Chorus can remove copper lines, retail service providers must identify vulnerable customers and offer solutions such as a cellphone or a back-up battery supply.

“New Zealanders have been migrating from copper-based landlines to alternative technologies such as mobile phones, cordless phones and fibre services for years. For most people, this provision won’t change anything. But for those identified as vulnerable customers using fibre landlines, it provides a practical solution and peace of mind that in a power outage, they can still call for help.”

Note: New section 232A(5) defines a vulnerable consumer as a consumer of a telecommunications service to which the code applies who:

  • is at particular risk of requiring the 111 emergency service (for example, due to a known medical condition); and
  • does not have a means for contacting the 111 emergency service that can be operated for a specified minimum period in the event of a power failure.

Contact: Lindsey Birnie 021 814 025