If anyone in New Zealand is capable of sorting out the mess that is the telecommunications industry, it’s the government's Inquiry team, according to telecomms analyst Paul Budde.
“You read about these things but you don’t really know what the people are like and whether they truly understand until you meet them. These guys have the right attitude.”
Budde is in New Zealand to give a verbal submission to the Inquiry and is pleased with what he’s seen.
“They have a real grasp of the technology and the position of telecommunications in the wider society. Issues like local loop unbundling can be very complex and it’s open to a lot of misunderstanding.”
Budde is more concerned about how the politicians deal with the Inquiry report once it’s been handed over.
“If it gets caught up in political game playing that will be a disaster. I’d rather they held off for three months or so than release a watered-down version.”
Budde says a weak regulator would be worse than the current position where there is no regulation at all. A regulator without enough power would lead to the sorts of problems Australia is currently undergoing.
“The chief regulator over there has just announced that [self-regulation] doesn’t work. We’ve been saying it for years but to have him come out and say it as well is astonishing.”
In Australia the industry forum is tied up arguing over issues that were first raised five years ago and are now no longer relevant.
“The Commission has already earned its money — I saw TVNZ and Sky talking about using the same set-top box for services. That’s great news.”
Budde says this role of facilitator is something that should be continued if not expanded in the regulator’s portfolio.
He endorses the Inquiry’s draft report finding that there be a regulator and an industry forum — this two-pronged approach is the best option, he believes.
“The regulator would provide the commercial framework and the industry forum would sort out the technological details of how to implement the decision. They must have a deadline, however. That’s vitally important.”