Santa, are you listening?

I hope the government has the balls to accept the telecommunications inquiry report and implement it as it is. We're really talking about very light-handed regulation at best, with only a hint of intervention in the future.

So there I was, quietly minding my own business happily reading the ISOCNZ newsgroup as it lambasts the
Dominion for printing a truly awful story about internet porn, when an email arrived from the Commerce Commission.

Hello, thinks I, this must be interesting. It’s about Vodafone and the spectrum auction. I really should write something about the auction being suspended, but quite frankly I’ve got three days left in my working year and I have to guess as to what the government will do with the telecommunications inquiry report and I’ve still got to buy a $5 secret Santa gift for someone in the office and we haven’t even started Christmas shopping proper yet and Newmarket’s always hell this time of year, so maybe I’ll leave it alone.

And then I realise just what the press release is actually saying. Allow me to quote: “Commission clears Vodafone to acquire radio frequency spectrum rights should it be successful in auction. The Commerce Commission today cleared Vodafone Mobile NZ Limited to acquire certain management rights and licences in the current auction of radio frequency spectrum.”

Yes, that’s right — the Com Com has given Vodafone the okay to take part in an auction that has been suspended after it had already been bidding for months. Can you believe it? If there has ever been a better example of why we need a dedicated telecommunications commissioner, I can’t think of it. A-mazing.

I just hope the government has the balls to accept the inquiry report and implement it as it is. We’re really talking about very light-handed regulation at best, with only a hint of intervention in the future, and still I hear the government is less than happy about being seen to be anti-business. I can understand they think they’re finally getting on top of the “it’s a Labour government therefore it hates successful businesses” issue and wouldn’t want to rock the boat with legislation that is regulatory. But this isn’t just about one company’s future, this is about all New Zealand companies and our entire future. I know that Telecom is such a large part of the New Zealand Stock Exchange that if its shares dip the market plummets and the temptation must be to try to keep things stable for a while longer, but if I can ask Santa for one thing this Christmas, please let it be a telecommunications commissioner? A commissioner who can look at things like Vodafone bidding for spectrum or Telecom introducing a new numbering scheme in a timely manner and force a conclusion without resorting to courts.

Actually, while I’m asking Santa for things, can we have a review of the whole interception law nonsense? I’d like it debated on its merits separately from the anti-hacking legislation, which we desperately need. My advice: if you think you’re a tad over-burdened financially this Christmas, arrange for the bank to loan you some money then skip out with it and take it to court — if they’ve transferred the cash to your account nothing will have been stolen because under our law you can’t steal a column of numbers. If only 50 or so of you do it that should speed up the introduction of some decent electronic legislation. Just don’t mention my name. I can get into enough trouble on my own, thanks.

And finally, from the “just when you thought it was safe to book a holiday” corner — I received an email from Ross Stewart at Interim Technology Associates about Y2K. Don’t forget, says Stewart, that 2000 is leap year and that means we’ll have an extra day at the end to try to trip up your software. Think it’s unlikely? Well it probably is, but for those who don’t remember the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and it’s hiccup a few years back, the plant shut itself down briefly when it found itself with an extra day. Officially it caused no damage and was sorted out fairly quickly, but shutting down a plant that runs continuously is no easy matter.

So enjoy your Christmas break, if you’re getting one, and have a happy new year and I’ll see you in the 21st century.

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