- First things first
- And finally
- First things first
I really have to apologise to the communications manager Sonya Haggie at Maori TV. In last week's FryUp I wrote about Maori TV's website, it's URL and the piece of legislation that created the company that runs the channel.
I spoke to Sonya about the legislation that said anyone who owns a domain name that might be confused with Maori TV's name is in breach of the law and in the FryUp I wrote: "also churlish to suggest someone who's trying to do the right thing need not bother because they'll be forced to do it anyway" and Sonya thought I was talking about her being churlish. I really didn't mean it to be taken that way, I was talking about the legislation. I'm sorry if you were offended, Sonya - it's the law that's the ass. The law.
I'm loathe to use the word paternal in a pejorative sense, being a father myself, but I can't think of another word to convey that sense of "nanny state" deciding the new Maori TV channel needs protecting above and beyond those constraints available to any normal business. It's already illegal to pass your own business off as someone else's and the ground is well covered in law and in practice. Why go the extra step and build it into this act I wonder.
- And finally
That's the end of that then. No more unbundling, no more endless rounds of lobbying (sorry, I almost kept a straight face there), no more beating of chests and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I had coffee the other day with the Australia/New Zealand country manager for a giant IT company and we got to talking about broadband rollout. I pointed out how poor it was in New Zealand and he said "yes but regulation will help with that won't it?" I explained that in fact we were about to reject unbundling as an option for being uneconomic.
He nearly choked on his decaf skimmed frappacino with a twist of lemon.
Uneconomic? he asked. How so? I couldn't tell him and, judging by the TV and radio interviews he's given, neither could the Minister of Communications Paul Swain. It's interesting that Telecom always threatened to stop investing in the network should it be unbundled yet here we are seeing both TelstraClear and CallPlus claiming they'll spend their money elsewhere following the decision.
Unbundling has, of course, never actually been about allowing the competitors to install their own gear. Can you imagine what the exchange would look like if all 80 ISPs decided to install their own DSLAMs, UPS back-ups and the like? How would it all work? Who'd be responsible should there be a failure.
No, unbundling is about having a big stick so you can negotiate a better wholesale agreement. Unfortunately, without it we're stuck with a wholesale regime that a: isn't wholesale but resale and b: consists of one consumer-level product.
That's not going to help us catch up with the Aussies let alone the rest of the OECD.
By way of example, the communications manager at the same company told me about his new broadband connection in Sydney. For $A30 a month he's got a free DSL router, and at least 500kbit/s connection that gets throttled back to dial-up speed if he reaches his traffic limit. And what's his traffic limit each month? Well, he couldn't remember if it was 30GB or 50GB.
I nearly choked on my decaf skimmed etc...
You could pay double that here in New Zealand, have to buy your own modem and get a traffic limit of 1GB a month.
So I had a look at Whirlpool, an Aussie site devoted to the various broadband options (link below). Pretend you're in New South Wales or somewhere and click on the wee map and take a look at the various options. For $A59.95 a month I could have 512kbit/s and no traffic limits with Zebra Internet. For $A100 a month I could get 1.5Mbit/s with no traffic limits from i-Blue Internet.
This is what drives uptake of broadband - cheap prices. It's that simple. It's not content, it's not anything else - it's price. In New Zealand broadband is too expensive and isn't likely to change terribly much.
Without that groundswell of support we're not going to see demand for the next generation of services - y'know, like JetStream full speed, the one Telecom introduced five years ago. Without demand for that, we're not going to see any of the services that the Ministry of Economic Development is talking about when it looks to New Zealand's broadband future.
What's the MED talking about? Well I was lucky enough to get a copy of a draft copy of its broadband development plan and the MED, on advice from the industry, is talking about most New Zealand homes being able to get 50Mbit/s by the end of 2010.
That's some serious broadband right there.
Still, the minister and commissioner are going to be keeping a close eye on Telecom and so, I'm sure, will the rest of us.
So it's up to Telecom. If Telecom does actually deliver a wholesale regime that they can all work with then we're in with a grin. I'll laud them from the rooftops if they start to offer more than just 256/128kbit/s service as a bitstream offering.
There are signs that despite the opposition's rhetoric they're lining up to buy the new wholesale service. Orcon was first off the blocks, followed closely by CallPlus and if the rest join in as well that's got to be good for the consumers.
Have a look at the MED report stories - the government will release the final version of it for discussion in the middle of June. Of most interest is the contention that unbundling, or "facilities-based competition" as the report calls it, is vitally important to the New Zealand broadband market. Essential is the word used.