Recently Sky Network Television Ltd announced their plans of partnering with some New Zealand-based ISPs to distribute content for its new service iSky free of charge ("unmetered") to their customers. Like so many things on the Internet, free is good - unless it has the potential to undermine the basic principle of equal access to information to everyone.
The following is a guest post by Ludwig Wendzich on this topic:
The great thing about the Internet is that anyone with access to the network can access any public content available through these connections. The independent content producer, the home movie dad and the giant media moguls are all on a level playing field and the consumer, you, have the option to decide which content they want to consume, as long as you have a working Internet connection and haven't run through your data cap yet.
Net neutrality is the idea that access to the Internet means access to the whole Internet at the same price. The product which telcos sell are bits, or data transfer. They can charge you a $80 for 40GB of data transfer at 256kpbs, or offer you different packages, but their product is still data transfer.
What data you choose to download is up to you. Telcos should have no business in deciding which content you should or shouldn't have access to.
Now we have to defend our rights against some New Zealand telcos placing a bias towards the consumption of certain types of content -- more specifically, a bias toward the content produced by media giants with enough cash to subsidize the cost of data transfer.
ISP Orcon announced the O-Zone where they allow free access to a number of large websites, including TVNZ. Telecom New Zealand announced their partnership with TiVO giving customers unmetered access to on demand TiVO content. And now a number of ISPs (including Vodafone, Orcon, Slingshot, farmside, Woosh and Xnet) have announced a partnership with SKY which allows SKY subscribers to have unmetered access to on demand SKY content on their computers over the Internet.
On the surface this seems like a great deal and that's exactly what the telcos want you to think. Vodafone spokesman, Paul Brislen, has said (on their company twitter account) that "this is nothing more than Sky saying 'you can watch the content you've paid for on TV or on PC' and that's it". But this simply isn't true. The distinction needs to be made between the two services:
1. Access to on demand SKY content
2. Data transfer from the telcos
Paying for content online doesn't mean you have paid for the delivery. These are separate services. When you buy a book at Amazon you still have to pay for postage. Buying a movie from iTunes doesn't mean that you no longer have to pay for the data transfer. It uses just the basic form of content - bits - to transfer this iTunes movie as downloading the same movie from torrents.
The cost of the service doesn't negate the cost of the data transfer which means that the telcos here have effectively made the iSKY service an infinitely cheaper entertainment service than anything else online (except for TVNZ on Orcon). That's because they have allowed SKYTV to pay for those data transfer charges instead of passing them on to their own customers, you.
This seems very good for us now, no data charges for TVNZ (on Orcon), no data charges for SKYTV (on selected providers) if we already subscribe to SKY, and no data charges for on demand TiVO content (on Telecom.) Not paying for something must be good, right?
That's a shortsighted view because it will lead to us ending up with the Internet being populated by the media giants, who can afford to strike these data transfer deals with the telcos to allow their content to be accessed for free. And the rest of us, who can't afford to pay for everyone else's data transfer of our content are at a huge disadvantage with consumers having to pay for something they are used to having paid on their behalf, making them less likely to access our, now more expensive, content.
When I suggested to Vodafone that they are creating an Internet that excludes the little man, they responded with "there is nothing to stop you doing any of this - that's absolutely untrue", suggesting that if I wanted to be on a level playing field with the big boys I could also strike a deal with Vodafone that would have them serve my content for free. I asked how much this would cost and it turns out that Vodafone "have no idea how much [I'd] pay - that's a commercial negotiation [I'd] have to engage in, just as Sky has."
Think for a minute what this means. New startups could not exist. Creating a new Internet web property would cost so much to the new entrant, that they would cease to exist because they do not have enough money to subsidize everyone's access to their websites.
Every single web property only exists because the Internet is a neutral platform. Anyone can put something online, and anyone else with an Internet connection, can access that content at the same cost as consuming any other content (of the same file size) on the Internet.
The great thing about the Internet is that it is neutral. Let's not give control of the Internet to the conglomerates, the media companies or even the telcos. Telcos should be bit movers, not content providers.
We protested against Section 92a (#s92a) and won. Child pornography and piracy were used as a smokescreen to confuse the issues but we saw through it. Now you are being distracted by free access to on demand video content. Just because the telcos handicap us with low data caps at ridiculous prices doesn't mean we should fall for this.
Instead, we should stand strong behind this issue, our freedom of choice, and argue that if the telcos are so interested in the customers, as Vodafone claims on their twitter account (http://twitter.com/vodafoneNZ/status/25849971917), then they would increase caps and drop prices instead of making content choices on our behalf.
Access to the whole web is being restricted (by low data caps and high prices) and telcos want you to believe you are better off because access to certain content is now free. This is simply not true and New Zealanders would be shooting themselves in the foot if they accept this as Internet will go the way of radio -- everyone will have access to the available content for free, but the available content will be severely limited to those who have the financial means to afford to distribute it.
Ludwig Wendzich is a 19 year-old web and technology enthusiast who is currently studying Design at AUT. He's been involved in the world of web design from a very young age and has been running Barcamp Auckland, a homegrown gathering of technologists from around New Zealand, since 2007. His personal website is http://ludwignz.com and you can follow him on Twitter @ludwigw.
Just excuse the
American British pronunciation of "routers"...
HP Networking will be hosting an Executive Seminar over breakfast with Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, Mark Fabbi, who will discuss emerging technology trends and how these trends can affect an organisation's network infrastructure.
The HP Networking Executive Seminar will address the evolving networking landscape, market trends and challenges faced by organisations.
In addition, HP will discuss how its networking solutions provide simplified, more flexible and secured networks, as well as how it reduces network complexity, improves IT delivery, and lowers overall costs.
Where: Intercontinental Hotel, 2 Grey Street, Wellington
When: Friday, 26th November, 2010 8:00am - 11:00am
Who should attend: IT and business leaders and HP channel partners
A couple of months ago I was invited to record a sessions about my personal impressions, memories and other bits of New Zealand's Internet history from my point of view. The end resulting website Down to the Wire, created by Heyday, launched today and tells the story from 1989 through now, a page for each year, a page released every day.
Each page comes with a couple of video interviews, recordings, "track of the year" (free downlod!), quotes, a bit of history, and links to more reading. And of course the required Like and Tweet buttons.
I have no idea if my video contribution will be used, and if it is I don't know which year it will show up, but if you see me say hello!
But it doesn't stop there. You can contribute your personal experiences too, but clicking the "Add your story" button and entering your own memories to the list. I've done that already, so now it's your turn - visit Down to the Wire now.
UPDATE: Actually I visited the 1989 page directly, before and didn't notice my mugshot is already being used in the frontpage:
Today we have a variety of sources for digital home entertainment (in New Zealand)... We can just walk to the local video rental store and get a DVD (a few weeks after the movie's been to the silver screens). Or you can get free-to-air high definition TV over Freeview|HD (including the option of using some interesting recorders like the Magic TV and TiVO). You can subscribe to Sky and get your TV programs over satellite. Or even wait for the TelstraClear HD PVR coming soon (after months of delay).
Or you can get an Apple TV and use the iTunes service to rent movies (albeit from a limited selection when compared to the list of titles available overseas). You can also use iTunes on your PC if you don't have an Apple TV.
You can also source your digital home entertainment from dubious sources, such as torrenting those TV programs that have not been released in the country yet - not even through the iTunes service.
Here at home we use a Windows Media Center. It's a very flexible setup, basically a Windows PC with an appropriate video graphics card and a TV source (in our case a HDHomeRun). It brings together HD TV (we have very good Freeview|HD signal here), music, DVD, photos, even some web content (including YouTube), at the point of a single remote control. All this in a very small Dell Zino HD PC that hides inside the cabinet.
There are other media centre software, both for Windows and Mac PCs, but after trying a few, I still like the Windows Media Center big screen interface.
However this very flexible setup is, it still won't allow me to rent movies directly from the Internet. If we want to buy or rent an iTunes movie then we need to grab the keyboard, close Media Center and use the keyboard to navigate the iTunes software to complete the action, download the movie and watch it.
An alternative, you'd have thought, would be for Microsoft to have a Zune Marketplace add-in for Windows Media Center. Because they already have Zune Marketplace for Xbox 360, and it's even available in New Zealand (with less titles than the iTunes service I am told). But no. Microsoft didn't put much effort into that, and although a new Zune application for PC is coming, nothing seems to be planned for Media Center.
Of course one could hope Apple would tap into this market - and seeing they already have an Windows version of iTunes, then it could be just a hop to have a native add-in that would allow access to your iTunes account from inside Media Center. Alas this is not out there either. And no, I don't think the new generation Apple TV beats the Media Center - it doesn't even accommodate a real TV receiver.
So these are the features I want to see most in Windows Media Center: either a Zune Marketplace or an Apple iTunes add-in.
What would you want to see in your digital entertainment hub?
When the Apple iPad was launched, users were thrilled to find out their iPhone apps would run on the iPad, no changes required. In the odd case an application would not scale and would appear on the screen inside a frame, in its original size. And people were fine with that.
Enters the failed marketing at Samsung. Their Android-base Galaxy Tab have the same thing happening:
"If you download Android Market apps to the Galaxy Tab, you will find that many of those applications are fully scalable," a Samsung spokeswoman said via e-mail in response to an inquiry from Computerworld. "Those applications that are not scalable are framed in the display at 800-by-400 [pixel] resolution." The full 7-in. screen offers a larger 1024-by-600 pixel resolution.
Samsung obviously don't have the same magical powers and reality distortion field controls, so Computerworld declares it a problem, and Samsung can't get out of it:
"The problem appears to be limited to apps downloaded from the Android Market. The spokeswoman said that Samsung did work with Google on the Galaxy Tab to make certain that Google's "entire suite of mobile services, including Google Maps, are fully scalable to fit the Galaxy Tab's 7-in. screen at 1024-by-600 resolution."
Read the article and you will see that nowhere Samsung says it's a fault or problem, only the way it works. Computerworld makes it a problem, and a big one at that.
So, let's make it clear: if it's on an Apple product, it's a feature. On anything else, it's a problem.
And no, I am not blaming Apple. I am blaming the person writing that article.
A few technology providers and individuals are offering to help companies affected by the Christchurch earthquake (September 2010). If you need any help with IT (infrastructure, servers, email, etc) here is a list of companies willing to help you:
Amanzi (HP hardware at cost and managed monitoring service)
Catalyst IT (office and server space in Wellington)
Chris Claridge (office space in Christchurch)
Gorilla Technology (IT in general, infrastructure)
Esri (GIS assistance to government agencies and private organisations in response to disasters)
Memia (Google Apps and email setup)
Responsive IT (Microsoft Server, Small Business Server)
Snap (Internet connectivity)
Unleash Data Centre (server colocation)
VendHQ (free web-based Point of Sale for three months)
Wave Adept (Google Apps and email setup)
Where's My Server (server virtualisation)
A more complex situation is for those using Microsoft software and services. The Microsoft New Zealand issued a statement today clarifying:
. For consumers (typically with 1 or 2 standalone PCs) experiencing software issues related to Microsoft products, as they restart their PCs, or have to reload software on new PCs, please call our support line for free Telephone based support on 0800 800 004.
. For small businesses affected by the earthquake (typically with 1 or more PCs and Servers, and not actively managed by a Microsoft Customer or Partner Account Manager), Microsoft is making available Telephone based service incident support calls free of charge by calling 0800 800 004.
. In addition to the above, Microsoft Managed Partners and Enterprise Managed Customers (defined as the Customers and Partners that have Microsoft Account Manager) also have the ability to receive free priority telephone based technical support subject to availability.
Microsoft is also making available to affected Microsoft Managed Partners and Enterprise Managed Customers, on a case-by-case basis, access to assistance and advice from our Consulting and Premier Support personnel, and access to Microsoft Online Services (Microsoft Cloud based Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting) for situations where their infrastructure is damaged to the point where they require an alternative messaging & collaboration suite on a temporary basis until such times as they can rebuild.
If your company relies on its IT infrastructure being in place to continue to operate, and you are having problems, contact one of these companies.
For the last seven years we have been hosting Geekzone with Auckland-based ISP and hosting provider ICONZ, but since our two year contract was coming to an end it would be only good business practice to investigate alternatives in terms of cost, bandwidth, location.
And with that in mind, a few weeks ago we started talking to some colocation providers. We had very few requirements - we are not the largest online publisher in New Zealand, but Geekzone does sit regularly on the top 50 New Zealand-based websites in unique visitors, according to Nielsen.
According to our analytics data, 75% of our New Zealand visitors come from Auckland, with the majority of these using Telecom New Zealand, followed by (in order) Callplus/Slingshot, Orcon, WorldxChange, Vodafone and TelstraClear.
Since site speed is something that I consider one of the most important things for a good user experience, it made sense to us to consider Auckland-based service providers, with good Internet access and peering.
Also, when deciding location we had to consider that while New Zealand readers make up 70% of our page views, in absolute number of users it's only 40% - so we still needed to be located somewhere with good international connectivity, close to the submarine cables leaving the country.
Of course we also considered physical security access, power source, etc.
We managed to get into a great conversation with Datacom, through an introduction from Ben Gracewood. After considering services, infrastructure and prices I think we managed to agree on a deal that will allow us to continue running Geekzone with more "space" to grow, thanks to the savings we will be making.
You will see this new box at the bottom of all our pages in the main site:
These logos represent the companies or services that help Geekzone run as fast as possible, serving more than 600,000 unique visits every month. Huge thanks to Datacom, RedJungle, Aptimize, HP ProLiant DL servers and Microsoft SQL Server. Also thanks to ICONZ, whose skilled technical people helped us grow to where we are today.