Members passing motions

There's not much difference between the parties' ICT policies. Where they differ is on implementation issues

- Members passing motions It was a dark, stormy night in Avalon, one of the most peculiar public erections in the Lower North Island, where 1,282 square metres of studio space in total and a large number of cameras wait for live television shows to happen. A fleet of chauffeured limousines disgorged their honourable cargo of four into the Avalon Studios foyer, where drinks awaited them. They needed the fortifying libations, as our popularly elected Parliamentarians were to be grilled by two experienced journalists (Fran O’ Sullivan and Russell Brown). In no particular order, the members were Rodney Hide of ACT, David Cunliffe from Labour, National’s Maurice Williamson and Metiria Turei, Greens. Responsible for the respective parties’ ICT policies, the four faced not only two journalists, but also a live studio audience that by and large found its way to Avalon in a self-propelled fashion by means of automotive vehicles. This was of course the great TVNZ/InternetNZ internet debate and being that, it was followed by people all over the internet as well as over broadcast TV (well, for the first hour at least). Questions were asked, and answered in a roundabout manner by the politicians. A general observation: there’s not much difference between the parties’ ICT policies. All are keen to fund a digital, networked future. Where they differ is on implementation issues, with National’s Williamson sounding like an Old Labourite with his promise of billions to build networks, and Cunliffe going big on private interests playing a large part in moving us upwards in the OECD rankings. Both found support from the unexpected quarters of Hide and Turei and things were generally chummy and warm. It was positive to note that no party thinks it can control and censor the internet. “Anarchy” was the term Williamson used to describe the state of affairs on the ‘net, but not in a negative way. The pat question on “cyber-safety” from moderator Damian Christie was dealt with quickly: use your common sense, parents, and check what your kids are doing on the internet. Not that you’ll be able to stop them anyway, so keep wringing your hands and cyber-commiserate somewhere like Facebook over how dreadful things are these days. That said, all politicians agreed that Parliamentarians being videoed on the sly and YouTubed or whatever is a bad thing. While Cunliffe thinks the internet means you have to have a consistent “brand” across all platforms, politicians should be free to engage with the public in a relaxed manner without fear of being recorded. It’s all about context, Hide said. Indeed, but what is this I read about Mallard calling for a regulator for internet content? Does Mallard think he can regulate content from overseas creators, something that Colleague Cunliffe et al clearly believe is impossible? Going back to anarchy on the internet, isn’t it curious that the House voted 110 for, 10 against the Copyright Act Amendment? This despite it containing section 92A, the implementation of which has been delayed as it’s universally castigated as unfair and unworkable. I see that the European Parliament has thrown out a similar “three strikes and your out” law, with the ISPs being copyright enforcers for content owners. What are we doing with a law like that in New Zealand then? Reinforcement the perception that the Copyright Act Amendment is rotten law came when Brown asked Williamson, who had just admitted to format-shifting crimes against the music industry by using multiple devices and paid-for music, if it was logical that he couldn’t copy DVDs to say his iPod. “There is no logic,” Williamson replied. If that’s the case, why on earth did Williamson vote for the Amendment? On practical details, Williamson reckons fibre to 75 per cent of New Zealand homes would cost $18 a month, a number that was laughed at by representatives from the telco industry in the audience. Their ears perked up though when told by Cunliffe that $15 million has been earmarked for a second sub-sea cable across the Tasman. Williamson is certain Kordia will get that money, whereas Cunliffe says it’s not been decided yet; again, all four agreed that we’re paying too much for our international transit, due to the Southern Cross being the only viable route out of NZ for most providers. At this stage, it’s worth noting that when the Southern Cross cable was due go into the ocean, the government was offered a ten per cent stake in it. The government declined, however, leaving Telecom, Optus and MCI/Verizon as the owners of a cable that has masses of spare capacity left on it for our data traffic. Oh well. Sadly, the technical foundations on which any public policy regulating the ‘net should be founded upon were a bit shaky amongst our elected members. While access to government services and information should be possible for everyone and not just Windows users, none of the politicians seemed to understand the concept of Open Standards that would facilitate that. Now there’s a policy waiting to be written. Cunliffe seems to be aware of the urgency of getting IPv6 rolled out soon, as within two years, the IPv4 addressing protocol will be exhausted; is there any government content accessible over IPv6 currently though? Where’s the national IPv6 infrastructure to make the transition happen? Maybe we could get a move on with that too, seeing that in two years time, it’ll be a major pain in the rear to not having done so? So, it wasn’t really a debate, but as a Wellington acquaintance pointed out, a panel discussion on various internet related issues. It’s painfully apparent that Labour’s natural coalition partner is National (and vice versa); also, the Greens disappointed as their set of ICT policies is just too thin to be taken seriously. Hide is half-clued-up on geeky things, but too ideologically blinkered to get the other half that’s also important. Nothing new under the sun then. - The entire two-hour Internet Debate with video in WMV format - Three strikes ‘buried’ as telecoms package partially throttled. - Government eyes new rules to cover media convergence



Robert X. Cringely

Is Sarah Palin more popular than porn? Search me In the past two days there have been a bunch of news stories about what America searches for - and by extension, what Americans are most interested in. The results are either a) surprising,  ii) totally predictable, or Z. highly dubious. You be the judge. First, the surprising. It seems that Americans are now more interested in social networks than pornography. No, that is not a typo. Reuters quotes Hitwise general manager Bill Tancer, who clearly knows a thing or two about flogging his new book ("Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters," available at an online bookstore near you). To wit: [Tancer] said surfing for porn had dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent a decade ago, and the hottest internet searches now are for social networking sites. "As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased," said Tancer, [who] indicated that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn. I'm guessing Tancer has not visited many social networks, or that all his Facebook friends are old farts. Because when you're age 18 to 24, social networks ARE pornography. In fact, they're better. Have you seen some of those profiles? Two words: humena humena. Next up, the predictable. Hitwise also measures the most popular searches for political terms. You can guess which lipstick-wearing pitbull of a hockey mom tops the charts there. Per the Washington Post: ... in her first two days in the national spotlight, US internet searches on all things Palin - her photos, her biography, her family, anything - outnumbered any other politician in the past three years, says, which also monitors Web data. In many cases, her name was searched alongside the word "hot." I'm guessing that also includes searches for Palin's head photo-shopped onto various nude or bikini-clad models. Does that qualify as porn? If so, I think Tancer needs to revisit his conclusions about social nets. So is search really a good indicator of what people are thinking about? Here's what else Tancer had to say about search terms: ...elbows, belly button lint and ceiling fans are on the list of people's top fears alongside social intimacy and rejection. And you know what? He nailed it. My biggest single fear in life is that I'll bang my elbow on a ceiling fan, dislodging belly button lint from my navel and costing me opportunities at social intimacy. Amazing. Then again, maybe he's just trying to sell books. And maybe this is a sign we all should pull our noses away from Google for five minutes and do something else - go for a walk, have coffee with a fellow human, hunt a caribou, or heck, buy a dirty magazine. At least that way you'd get some exercise flipping the pages.

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