Fryup: Broadband and some guy rants on about something

Broadband blues; Hold the front page

Broadband blues

No sooner has the government unveiled its rural broadband initiative, which consists largely of $300,000 to be split among six regions, than the bickering starts. Honestly, you can't give money to people without other people starting to look at those people and getting upset.

Still, $300K split six ways doesn't amount to a hill of beans when you think about broadband in its broadest sense. The money is to pay for advisers who will help set up a broadband initiative, which is nice but is certainly only the very first step.

Someone else who is lamenting the slowly slowly approach to broadband is the head of the company that runs the Southern Cross Cable, Ross Pfeffer. The SCC can cope with gigabytes of traffic per second, yet we're hardly putting a dent in it and he's concerned that residential users are being left out of the loop.

Most, if not all, of the telcos are focussing their main efforts on the business market and leaving residential users with dial-up at best. Both Telecom and Ihug have residential broadband offerings, and TelstraSaturn of course has its cable service wherever TelstraSaturn has reached, but for the vast majority of Kiwis it's 56K or bust.

The reason for this is, as ever, money. It's far cheaper to roll out a service to the CBD where there's a large concentration of users than to go to a suburb or a region where there might not be so many. And of course business users are easier to cater for - there's less demand for high-bandwidth content and of course there are the more regular hours.

But home users are just as important. Indeed, it's often easier to sell a product into a business if there's support from beyond the office.

And it's not just happening in New Zealand - the Aussies are also dragging the chain on broadband. Pfeffer puts that down in part to the stranglehold Telstra has on the local loop. He says here in New Zealand the cost of broadband may be too high for many households to look at investing, and that raises an interesting problem: perhaps it's not that broadband is too expensive, but that dial-up is so cheap. Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Ernie Newman says the Kiwi Share, which mandates free local calling, has meant dial-up in New Zealand is dirt cheap. That makes the jump to broadband seem that much more costly and that's slowing the roll-out.

Whatever happens, it's something the new telco commissioner will have to pay close attention to. He or she is due to be appointed once the Telecommunications Bill, supposedly before the end of this year.

Residential broadband take up "crucial" says cable chief - IDGNet

Uncertainty surrounds broadband allocations - IDGNet

Road to rural broadband a rough path - Stuff (get it before you have to pay)

Alcatel Australia calls for more broadband competition - Sydney Morning Herald

Hold the front page

Here at FryUp HQ we try our damnedest to push the envelope, not in a postal worker kind of way but in a forging ahead, breaking ground in this new journalistic medium kind of way.

Struggle as we do to bring you the news behind the news we have occasionally discovered that there are readers out there who don't know how newspapers, even humble electronic ones, work. So I thought it was time we had a wee chat about news, newspapers, journalists and advertising.

Bear in mind that I'm not speaking for any other news outlet and I have no idea how they work; but here at IDGNet we have a fairly straightforward approach to news gathering.

It goes like this: news and advertising are two entirely different beasts. If you want us to run a happy piece about your latest product release, then by all means contact the advertising department. They do a fantastic job of keeping us fed and clothed and letting the world know what you want it to know. The best thing our ad reps do is keep their distance from the journalists. If you buy an ad in Computerworld or on IDGNet or whatever, we as journalists don't know about it until we get the final copy of the paper. We don't want to know about it. Honestly. And most of the time, unless we've told them, the sales reps don't know which news stories we're writing for that week's paper.

And can I just say that ringing us up and saying "we've just taken an ad in this week's issue so now I'd like to place some copy" is only going to get you laughed at. That's not news, that's advertising. Nobody "places copy" in the paper except the editor. You know who you are.

Similarly, if someone sends us a press release, they've probably sent it to every publication in town. That means it's no longer news. Sorry, but part of the definition of news is that it be new. We deal with releases by putting them in Press Room, which can be found on the IDGNet site. You can display your points of view or your latest product releases or whatever it is there to your heart's content. There's nothing wrong with press releases per se. Everybody has a right to their opinion and companies often employ people to put their points of view on things, but let's be clear - they rarely generate news stories.

The readers seem to like this approach. They get to read news that's actually newsy and they can read ads that are, well, advertising. One certainly can't exist without the other but keeping them distinctly separate is good for all concerned. It certainly makes my job a lot easier. I can write stories about companies without any guilty thoughts or uneasiness. Should I be soft on this angle because Company A is an advertiser? The short answer is if I don't know the company is advertising, I can't be concerned about it.

In fact, the advertisers who know we work this way also seem to like it. They know readers are getting good, solid, independent news and that reflects well on their adverts. I like to think that's how they look on it, at any rate.

Here at IDGNet I tend to try to find news in one of four ways. I start by trying to come up with a fresh story with a new angle. Then I'll think about following up one of my earlier stories. Then perhaps I'll look at my colleagues and see about following up one of their earlier stories. Finally, last in the line, if all else fails, I'll look at the press releases to see what's come in. That's how I work because that's how I like to work.

And no, you can't see the copy I've written before it's published. That is just not going to happen. After I've interviewed someone I occasionally get asked this question and frankly it's insulting. I am a professional. My job is to write an accurate and truthful piece and for someone to say "I don't trust your ability to listen" is pretty poor. I am happy to read back your own comments or quotes but only if what you've said is highly technical and I want to make sure that I don't write bits per second instead of pounds per square inch. If you don't like what I say write a letter to the editor or buy an ad. You can say what you like then.

So there you have it - news doesn't come in the form of press releases. Journalists here don't let companies vet copy before it goes to print. Advertisers don't get to dictate whether a story will or won't run. The only people who get their hands on copy before you, the reader, gets to see it are the subs and the editor. I'll stop now. <rant off> as they say.

Have a fun and safe long weekend.

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