InternetNZ mulls single regulatory regime

InternetNZ is looking at how a unified regulatory regime for online and broadcast content might work

InternetNZ expects to complete in a few weeks a project to examine how a unified regulatory regime for online and broadcast content works or is envisaged to work in jurisdictions where such a system is in place or contemplated.

The aim is at this stage to encourage discussion of the feasibility of a converged regulatory regime in New Zealand and the first step is to establish a factual basis for such discussion, says InternetNZ CEO Vikram Kumar.

In this regard, he says, investigations by Computerworld into the workings of the current regime and particularly the market power wielded by Sky TV, has been “very helpful” in casting some “sunlight” into dark corners normally protected by commercial confidentiality.

InternetNZ’s support of a unified regime was signalled before the election in its Future Digital report, Kumar says. The organisation is part-way through the study, and should complete it within “a few weeks”. It will consider regimes for online and broadcasting content in the countries New Zealanders “like to compare ourselves with”, such as Australia, the UK and the US, as well as “the Nordic countries and potentially countries in East Asia”, he says.

InternetNZ is not inviting a precipitate approach, Kumar says; “we don’t suggest government should be wading in straight away”. Rather, once the factual basis for discussion is established, the range of options from “light” to more forceful converged regulation, should be thoroughly debated.

In a Q&A interview with InternetNZ president Frank March, who works at the Ministry of Economic Development, Computerworld asked for his view of former ICT Minister Steven Joyce’s attitude that the competitive situation will resolve itself under the increased competition stimulated by the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband initiatives.

March, while declining to comment from a government standpoint, says it is InternetNZ’s position that the required shift in the market cannot be left to work itself out by natural evolution and that some kind of proactive move is advisable.

At the Telecommunications and ICT Summit in Auckland earlier this month ICT Minister Amy Adams again rejected regulatory intervention in the content market in order to facilitate uptake of the UFB network. Here’s the reason she gave to Computerworld’s question about regulation:

“I think at this very early stage of the broadband rollout we have to be careful not to get ahead of where the market will develop and even in the short space of time since that last speech we’ve seen some new market entrants and things starting to change,” she said.

“... More widely I’d need to see examples of clear regulatory failure and consumer loss before we were ready to step in. At this stage it’s very early in the process and the backstop of the ComCom approach to regulating competition is there already, I’m confident of where we are.”

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