Cunliffe may yet weigh in on internet peering

Keener weapon may be needed to force issue

ICT Minister David Cunliffe may yet force internet service providers to restore full peering — to improve broadband efficiency — if more of them don’t move of their own accord.

Cunliffe is not contemplating such a move immediately, he said in response to a question at an event last month where he elaborated on the government’s planned Broadband Investment Fund (BIF) and launched industry forum Digital Development NZ.

“To date, I’ve only used the power of the pulpit,” he said. Already Telecom has gone some way towards restoring peering among its own nodes nationwide. But if more incentives — positive or negative — proved necessary, Cunliffe indicated, keener weapons might be used.

Raymond O’Brien, TelstraClear’s head of wholesale, dismissed any immediate plans for peering on its network last week, saying the company would wait and see how the 29-centre Telecom trial went (Computerworld, June 2).

New links laid with the help of the Broadband Investment Fund will be open to all comers, Cunliffe said. There will also have to be some regulatory framework governing their use, to prevent “gaming” among providers.

The BIF is deliberately being kept technology-independent, so it will not necessarily be applied to laying fibre, but may be used to fund new copper network technologies, wireless or satellite communications.

Much of the funding, Cunliffe expects, will be consumed in the laying of ducts rather than the expense of the transmission medium itself.

Applicants for BIF backing have been given until the end of June to make their application and the first grants are likely to be made in August, Cunliffe says.

Public-sector aggregation of data demand will be useful in justifying BIF funding to local government, health or education, he says, and such a node could act as a jumping-off point for further broadband distribution in the area.

Putting in a link to Gisborne Hospital, for example, would make broadband to most of the east coast of the North Island more economic.

However, the availability of the existing Government Shared Network at favourable rates to public-sector organisations will be a complicating factor, he acknowledges.

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