Internet gets upgrade funding

The government's response to the proposal for a New Zealand "next-generation internet" has both pleased and disappointed one of the effort's prime movers, Neil James of Otago University.

The government’s response to the proposal for a New Zealand “next-generation internet” has both pleased and disappointed one of the effort’s prime movers, Neil James (pictured) of Otago University.

While James is gratified that government appears to have seen the necessity for such a network and is prepared to fund it, he is far less happy with an expressed preference in the report that government should own the network, directly or indirectly.

A workshop including representatives of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, the Association of Crown Research Institutes, the New Zealand Vice Chancellor’s Committee, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Treasury discussed the findings of international research on governance and to determine a structure that would work best in the context of New Zealand.

“The conclusion is that a limited liability company should be established to manage the interests and vision of an Advanced Network for New Zealand,” says the report. Its strategic vision and intent can be based extensively on the work completed by NGI-NZ, which planned the case for the network.

Three options are put forward for ownership of the company, provisionally known as Arena (Advanced Research and Education Network for Aotearoa), which will run the network:

  • the company owned by the tertiary education institutes and crown research institutes

  • it is directly owned by the Crown

  • Arena is owned by the users, “much like the existing NGI-NZ Society”, and they vote for representatives on a board.
NGI-NZ, which already essentially constitutes the users, appears to have been sidelined, says James. It will be represented at planning meetings, but the universities and CRIs will be represented separately, which he sees as needless duplication.

All NGI-NZ gets in the report is an acknowledgement of its work and a commitment that “officials will continue to work closely with [the] NGI-NZ Society as this work is carried forward.”

There is some hope of steering thinking away from the currently envisaged structure and giving more say to NGI-NZ, says James.

The cost of the network could be as much as $250 million. Morst didn’t return calls by deadline.

One of the major decisions raised in the report is whether use will be limited to the scientific and educational community (the “tightly defined” approach) or more widely encourages access and usage by commercial businesses and other research and education organisations.

The latter scenario “facilitates faster technology transfer between science and industry and builds the overall capability of the nation quicker”, Morst says. Naturally, under the “widely available” plan the cost of the network is expected to repay itself more quickly.

“In both defined scenarios, an assumption is made that there is no restriction on member to member usage within New Zealand; however, acceptable usage policies (AUPs) on some international networks would limit international usage by commercial entities. This means that New Zealand organisations would not be allowed to send commercial traffic over the UK’s research network, for example.

“However … technology exists to separate out commercial traffic either in New Zealand or once it reaches the country of destination.”

The cost model of the proposed network envisages 15 “gigapops” (high-capacity “points of presence”), in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill, which would bring network facilities close to all the major universities and research institutes.

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