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Nethui 2013 (live updates)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Jul-2013 09:59

Attending the Nethui 2013, courtesy of InternetNZ. After the opening ceremony I joined the Internet Research Day stream.

The first session in this stream is lead by James Mahuta-Coyle, entitled “NZ Privacy Regulations and the Cloud: Current Controls and Options for Reform”. James took us through a look at the current issues regarding data ownership and accountability. But the session really is about what laws and what jurisdiction apply to data.

For example New Zealand privacy laws say that cloud providers are said to be holding data on behalf of the agency which actually uses the data. But these laws could be applied to entities outside New Zealand based on interpretation of where the data is being collected, not where the data is stored.

The session made parallels between cloud usage and the Privacy Principles established by the New Zealand Privact Act.

The next session was lead by Joy Liddicoat and was about New Zealand Internet Freedom Index.

During the Tuesday keynote the audience asked Jordan Carter, InternetNZ Chief Executive, what internetNZ is doing about government surveillance. The answer is basically about submissions regarding the bill and involving the Internet community at large in this debate.

The Hon Amy Adams, Minister of Communications and Information Technology is the Tuesday’s keynote. She said the Internet is essential part of our lives and key for New Zealand economics.

We now have 80% of New Zealand homes connected to the Internet. Average Internet usage per connection has gone up from 10GB a month in 2010 to 19GB a month in 2013.

Two scheduled reviews this year. The TSO and a wider review of policy framework to regulate telecommunications services in New Zealand. This is how Hon Amy Adams commented on the TSO review during the speech:

This morning at NetHui I am announcing the release of a discussion document on possible changes to the local residential Telecommunications Services Obligations.

Under the TSO, Telecom is required to continue to provide voice and dial-up data services to all residential premises that had an active Telecom line in December 2001.

Telecom must also keep the line rental for those services, in both urban and rural New Zealand, at or below the 1989 price in real terms, which equates to the $51 per month many of us pay today.

And of course Telecom must offer people a calling option under which local calls are unmetered – the so-called free local calling option which almost all of us use.

The TSO requirements as they stand create some issues.

The current TSO does not allow Telecom to use the most cost-effective and modern technology to provide TSO services, effectively locking in copper and potentially delaying the availability of cheaper and more innovative services.

The TSO arrangements – particularly free local calling combined with a relatively high monthly rental charge – may have slowed the progress and uptake of newer services. We may be seeing higher prices, less innovation and fewer new products compared with other countries that do not have these settings.

Let me give you some further context about why a review is needed.

In 2001, the year the TSO was agreed to, only 37 per cent of New Zealand households had access to the internet.

And when I talk about having access to the internet, few of those connections would be today recognised as broadband quality.

As I highlighted earlier, the latest figures now show that 80 per cent of New Zealand households now have access to the internet. The vast majority of these connections are broadband.

In much of the country, we now have better mobile coverage and better mobile services, people can watch the news while on the bus, share photos on social media sites, or send unlimited text messages as part of their telecommunications bundle.

Many people are now moving away from having home landlines at all, and others are accessing VOIP equivalents in preference to the traditional copper service.

The driver of this change is an increasingly competitive market and well-targeted supply-side initiatives, which together, are delivering affordable, reliable telecommunications services to a large number of New Zealanders.

The implication of this change for the TSO is the issue that the Government’s discussion document explores.

It asks whether, given market developments, we continue to need the protections of the TSO, or whether having them may be unjustifiably stifling innovation, and if it is needed, whether it needs updating.

There are several key aspects that need to be considered.

First, competition has developed throughout the telecommunications market. In 2001, Telecom had the lion’s share of all areas of the market, particularly fixed voice and Internet access.

Today, Telecom is a retail service provider amongst many others, with less than 50 per cent market share of retail broadband connections and it is facing increasing competition for voice services.

Second, the Government has introduced well targeted supply-side initiatives like the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative, to provide access to faster broadband for the majority of New Zealanders.

And thirdly, as I have previously highlighted, technology and the way we use telecommunications is changing rapidly, and this change is expected to accelerate.

The current TSO was established based on PSTN fixed-line calling being our primary mode of communication.  But now we have, as I have mentioned, more than one mobile phone for every New Zealander and much higher functioning internet services.

Similarly, the minimum speed requirements for internet access in the TSO are measured in kilobits per second – 14.4 kilobits for 95 per cent of lines and 9.6 kilobits for 99 per cent of lines. Compare that to today where fibre offers peak speeds of at least 100 Mbps.

The TSO can’t be frozen in time.  The underlying principles for the review are to ensure that any future TSO provisions are technology-neutral, focusing on the services people want to have available, rather than dictating the way those services must be provided, and to ensure that the framework promotes the development of competitive pricing and services rather than acting as a barrier to innovation.

Against this background, one of the first things the discussion document does is to consider what might happen if all the TSO protections were removed and not replaced. This allows us to see what potential problems would still remain, and to tailor any future TSO protections to these residual problems.

The discussion document concludes that, if there were no TSO protections at all, it is likely that consumers in isolated smaller communities and rural areas could face reduced service availability and quality, or higher prices, or both; and that free-local calling could come with conditions, such as a cap on use.

Because of these residual problems, the discussion paper outlines four broad options for future TSO protections.

These options include the status quo, and three options for change – minimal, medium and significant.

Other possible changes canvassed in the discussion paper include whether Telecom should continue to be required to provide a copy of the White Pages telephone directory to every household covered by the TSO. 

A recent opt-in pilot in Auckland suggested that many people are comfortable with finding this information online, and as a result, about 95% fewer phone books will be distributed to Auckland households this year.

I want to make it clear, though, that no changes are proposed to Telecom’s obligation to provide residential customers with free 111 calling, a free directory listing or deaf relay obligations under the TSO.

There are also no plans to remove the requirement that an option to have unmetered local calling is offered to consumers.

Consultation on the discussion document will close on Tuesday 20 August, and I am looking forward to hearing your views on the future options. 

As I mentioned earlier, the second review we are commencing is a wider assessment of the policy framework for regulating telecommunications services in New Zealand under section 157AA of the Act.

Throughout the establishment of the Government’s UFB and RBI initiatives, user groups were clear in their calls for the need for fibre connectivity as a priority.

The Government is committed to world-class fibre infrastructure, and the long-term gains it will bring. Increased certainty around the transition path from copper to fibre will promote development of retail fibre products, boosting the ability of New Zealand homes, businesses, schools and hospitals to maximise the transformative potential of these technologies.

The first phase of this review will look at whether the existing pricing framework we have in place is properly calibrated for the once in several generations transition period, as we shift from the legacy copper to the new fibre network, with the significant gains in speed, quality and reliability this will deliver for users. 

Investing in a new fixed access network is challenging. To make sure the new services are ready when people are going to need and value them, you have to start building ahead of demand, which is expensive and risky.

If you do not have the right regulatory settings in place to enable infrastructure providers to invest in new replacement technology, there is a real risk that consumers will not have access to it, or not have access to it for a long time.

Over the past few months I have had a range of productive discussions with a number of stakeholder groups around these issues which have been very useful.

It is my intention to issue a discussion document on the first phase of the telecommunications regulatory review in the next month or so, and I look forward to your feedback on the issues it will raise.

That document will focus primarily on how the regulatory framework can best provide certainty of costs, at the appropriate levels, over the transition period from now until the fibre build is complete.  Subsequent phases of the review to be undertaken in the years ahead will consider the longer term aspects of telecommunications regulation.

In the meantime of course the rollout of the UFB and RBI programmes continues at pace and we are looking forward to the auction of the 700Mhz spectrum later in the year.

Hon Amy Adams commenting on international connectivity, she commented how the Southern Cross cable prices have been coming down. The government will however support other undersea cable initiatives, but don’t see any bottlenecks in the current arrangements.

Wednesday morning we see the Parliamentary debates, where some of our MPs expose their views on technology, Internet and the role government in economic growth driven by these  resources.

Tracey Martin, NP NZ First MP started the discussion talking four minutes about how technology impacts the MPs’ work in our Parliament. She uses an iPad – and she didn’t have one before coming to the Parliament. She’s also got an iPhone “which is fab” and an old Nokia. Her thoughts were about all the impact of these pieces of technology on the public relationship with politicians. How all these technologies made politicians more accessible.

Next on was Simon Bridges, MP National who talked about his use of the Internet. It’s a tool that helps him being a MP to represent people, allowing people to communicate with him through different channels. He worries about online conversations to become monologues. A limitation of Twitter for example is the difficulty of having a debate over 140 characters and the noise it generates. He is keen on the differentiation between information and knowledge.

Gareth Morgan, MP Greens followed saying since taking the ICT portfolio he sees technology as a tool that helps politicians be where people are. If they are to represent people then they have to have a presence on Facebook, Reddit and other online debate platforms.

Clare Curran, MP Labour (and the only one I saw around the Nethui for the last two days as well) was the last of the MPs. HThe Internet in her view made politicians more human and more accessible. The technology also made those politicians “punch bags”. It also created a resource that allows crowdsourcing policy making.

Clare Curran asked the audience to stand up to the proposed bill extending the powers of the GCSB. Almost the entire audience stood up to show their view on this change in the law.

Other related posts:
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Geekzone data analytics with Power BI
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Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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