Ten telco questions

Following the Commerce Commission's broadband conference this week, Computerworld poses ten questions about the demand side of UFB

The Commerce Commission held a two-day conference entitled The Future with High Speed Broadband in Auckland on Monday and Tuesday.

Coincidentally, celebrity Stephen Fry tweeted on the morning of the first day that New Zealand’s broadband is a ‘digital embarrassment’. Fry broke out in a twitter rage after his connection was throttled back when he blew the data limit on the Telecom broadband plan.

Telecom and the government went into damage control, reassuring journalists that Fry’s problems were the result of poor pricing plan decisions. As the drama was unfolding the conference learned that New Zealand is among only four countries in the OECD with data caps — only later that week the OECD released new figures showing that data caps are now used in 13 countries.

On day two of the conference ICT Minister Amy Adams gave her first major speech to the industry – it lasted about 15 minutes and she took no questions. But she made it clear that broadcast and telco regulation are not about to merge any time soon.

Two hours later the bosses of Mediaworks and SkyTV slugged it out on a panel discussion – with the former plumping for more regulation.

In April the Commission will release a draft study on the demand drivers for uptake of fibre services which will be informed by the conference. In the interests of doing our bit, Computerworld offers the following ten questions for the study’s authors to ponder.

1. The justification for data caps has always been that because New Zealand and Australia are located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, usage has to be restricted because of the high price of international connectivity — so what reasons are users in Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium and the UK being given for the introduction of datacaps on their plans?

2. Broadband Stakeholder Group CEO Antony Walker told the conference that the uptake of fast fibre services has yet to reach a tipping point in Europe and the US. When it does we are likely to see Web 3.0 applications, just as Web 2.0 took off when broadband usage scooted ahead of dial-up – what will Web 3.0 look like?

3. Carleton University professor Dwayne Winseck says New Zealand is viewing its telco market through rose-tinted glasses, and that the “the entrenched position of incumbents threatens the viability of Ultra Fast Broadband” – has an outsider once again stated the obvious?

4. Telecommunications commissioner Ross Patterson refused to comment on whether broadcasting and telecommunications should be under the same regulator, but the programme featured plenty of people who weren’t afraid to raise the issue repeatedly — so who invited firebrands such as Winseck to the conference?

5. The Commission put out three issues papers prior to the conference. The first claimed that datacaps, peering and net neutrality were non-issues – was that just a wind-up?

6. Did ICT Minister Amy Adams miss an opportunity at the conference to prove to the industry she will be capable in the portfolio when she refused to take questions from the floor?

7. Conference chair David Havyatt, who’s credentials include being a ‘part-time temporary special adviser to the Australian Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy,’ told Sky TV CEO John Fellet that UFB will put more pressure on his business model than anyone else’s – is he right?

8. Former Tuanz CEO Ernie Newman suggested that the broadcasting industry might consider self-regulation, pointing to telecommunications as a model. Certainly the Telecommunications Carriers Forum’s letter to the Adams on February 13 slamming Crown Fibre Holdings was an example of industry togetherness – but was it constructive?

9. While the focus for the industry was on fibre, Walker pointed out that consumers are more interested in mobile — so when will the carriers get to grips with the rapid rise in data usage (as one punter put it: “I don’t want 1000 texts, I want 10GB”) and create plans that cater to the rising ranks of smartphone users?

10. Fry wasn’t the only Stephen to shock the Twittersphere this week. Minister of Science and Innovation et al Steven Joyce announced by tweet that he’d signed up for Facebook – has he ‘liked’ the conference photo page yet?

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