According to the New Zealand Herald, the long-running legal battle between Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand has been settled out of court. The dispute related to levies applied for rural telephone services under the now-defunct Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO) act; Vodafone argued that the fees it paid to Telecom were higher than they should have been. The settlement of the seven year dispute brings an end to a legal battle that has involved three Supreme Court cases, two High Court actions and two disputes overseen by industry regulator, the Commerce Commission. Terms of the settlement will remain confidential.
In February 2011 the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) confirmed that it had selected a surprise Telecom-Vodafone alliance to implement its Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), which seeks to give 80% of rural households access to broadband speeds of up to 5Mbps. The unexpected RBI partnership has prompted an understandable thawing in hostilities between the two telcos, although unsuccessful bidder Kordia described the decision as ‘a tragedy for rural New Zealand’. Following this week’s announcement, Telecom group general counsel Tristan Gilbertson said in a statement: ‘This settlement draws a line under a long-running, protracted legal process. Time has moved on. We’ve agreed it is time to put the disputes of the past behind us so we can focus on the future’.