Maurice Williamson has agreed with telecommunications ministers from 17 other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries to initiate a study of how Internet traffic is charged between countries.
The agreement for a study to be carried out by the APEC telecommunications workgroup came out of the third APEC Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunications and Information Industry (Telmin3), which was held in Singapore recently.
Mark Holman, a Ministry of Commerce senior advisor on communications networks and a Telmin3 attendee, says a number of APEC countries, such as Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, are concerned about the way Internet traffic is charged.
He says with ordinary voice telecommunications, usage is charged evenly between the country initiating and the country receiving the call. However, with Internet usage, the country that initiates the traffic pays the full cost.
“Given that most Web sites are in the US, a number of countries take the view that this is unreasonable,” says Holman. “The US Federal Communications Commission’s [FCC] view is that increased competition and use will resolve the situation as the proportion of Internet sites outside the US grows.”
Given the deadline for the study, which is the next Telmin meeting in 2000, the FCC might be right.
New Zealand also supported the implementation of a mutual recognition arrangement (MRA) on conformity assessment for telecommunications equipment.
Under the MRA’s terms, member countries agree to recognise one another’s tests on telecomms equipment, which should ensure a faster time to market for products.
Homan says the MRA, which is voluntary and comes into agreement on July1, 1999, does not affect New Zealand so much because responsibility for telepermitting rests on the individual network operators. In other countries the government takes a more proactive role in regulating standards.