Private sector shut out of Advanced Network

Private sector users will be barred from using the government-funded high-bandwidth Advanced Network under a draft use policy unless they are involved in a specific collaborative project with research or educational establishments.

In the early days of planning for what was then called the "next generation Internet", the possibility of allowing paid commercial use of the network was discussed as a means of assisting finances. New Zealand was too small for pure science to be trying to survive on its own and not fostering partnerships with industry, one of the founders of the network idea, Neil James of Otago University, said at the time.

From a position of no policies governing usage, the network has now moved to evolving a strict Network Use Policy. The current form of the document is a "final draft", and comments on it are requested by October 1. It is available online in .pdf or Microsoft Word format.

The club of users is defined to include New Zealand tertiary education institutions and Crown Research Institutes. These are "full members as of right". Other publicly-funded organizations engaged in research or education may be approved as associates.

"Others in the innovation and technology sectors may partner with a member or associate (or the Advanced Network Company, the company charged with operating the network) to obtain access to the Advanced Network for the relevant areas of their work," the draft document says. "Partners would be expected to pay full connection costs as well as any prevailing usage charges."

The conditions are aimed not only at keeping work on the network relevant, but also at preventing it from competing with general-purpose private sector telecommunications infrastructures such as the telco networks, says implementation manager Charles Jarvie at the Ministry of Research Science and Technology.

Moreover, if broader private sector participation were allowed "we'd have to draw up exhaustive agreements" to regulate the sharing and ensure the primary purpose of the network was not compromised, Jarvie says.

"When we looked around the world, we found it was very unusual for the private sector to have access to such a network." While limiting use would cut off a potential income stream, "we've got a relatively wide base of users," says Jarvie, "so the ongoing operational costs are not an undue impost."

There is one other exception: private sector providers of network equipment and services who wish to test a new technology intended to improve the performance or functionality of the network will be allowed to use it to conduct those tests.

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