ICT issues debated at online forum, amendment delayed

The controversial section 92A of the Copyright Amendment Bill debated

The backdown on the controversial section 92A of the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Bill was one of the insights yielded in the TVNZ 7 and online election debate, jointly organised with InternetNZ, conducted last week.

During the debate, ICT Minister David Cunliffe acknowledged that implementation of this clause has been postponed pending consultation with ISPs.

A statement from associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard’s office on Thursday confirmed this, noting: “Cabinet will consider this matter on Monday”, and that “there has been consultation with a wide range of interests including ISPs, the TCF, and representatives of copyright owners on the process required to enable illegal and pirated material to be removed from offending websites”.

For more on the controversy, which saw opposition to section 92A, see here.

Other aspects of the debate included National ICT spokesman Maurice Williamson trying to convince viewers that his vision of a broadband “utility” would not support Telecom market dominance. Labour policy still won the popular vote.

National’s utility cable will be open-access, and competition will occur at the services level, Williamson said.

“You do not have more than one road coming to your gateway or more than one electricity cable”, but this doesn’t compromise the free market in services travelling along these routes.

But ICT minister David Cunliffe was sceptical. “Where do you define the boundary between the core network of the incumbent and this rollout network?” he asked. “How do you manage that boundary over time? How do you make it technology-neutral? How do you avoid playing into the hands of an incumbent who knows more about it than the government does?”

The Broadband Investment Fund means risk-management and demand-stimulation will be in the hands of local people who know what their community needs, said Cunliffe. He also questioned Williamson’s broadband investment costings, of $2,500 per household, to install Fibre-to-the-Home, and $18-a-month service charge to pay this back.

The debate also covered international connectivity, with Cunliffe confirming that a $15 million subsidy under a Labour-led government would be provided to help build a second trans-Tasman undersea cable.

Internet freedom, and who should police objectionable content and copyright breaches, saw ISPs being put forward for the job of copyright cop — through the “repeat offender” clause of the new Copyright Act. As mentioned above, implementation of this clause has been postponed. But there is still a role for laws, and for filtering technology, Cunliffe said.

Williamson and the Greens’ Metiria Turei both defended the hands-off position. Asking ISPs to take responsibility would be akin to holding a truck-driver responsible for whatever is in the truck’s load, said Williamson.

ACT’s Rodney Hide said the government should not have approved the sale of Telecom’s “property rights” without appropriate compensation. On broadband, he disapproves of “throwing taxpayers’ dollars at a particular provider or technology”.

In the accompanying online public poll, ACT led, with 31% of voters preferring its ICT policy. National gained only 23% of the vote, Labour’s 27%. The Greens finished last, at 19%.

Journalists Fran O’Sullivan and Russell Brown questioned the MPs. The debate can be viewed at: http://debate.net.nz/?p=20

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