Stories by Tim Lohman

Australian comms minister dismisses talk of special NBN pricing

Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy has dismissed concerns held by independent Senator Nick Xenophon that the current National Broadband Network (NBN) legislation may allow the NBN Co to offer special pricing to major players such as Telstra.
During a media conference following the passing of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 today, Conroy hosed down suggestions that NBN Co would offer Telstra volume discounts on the NBN.
“What is set out in that bill is that if the NBN want to give say a volume discount it has to go and get approval from the ACCC," he said. "The NBN can’t just go off and give a volume discount to anybody or make new pricing arrangements.
“[NBN Co chief executive Mike] Quigley has said that the policy of the company is not to give volume discounts. So there is both Mr Quigley on the record and if you read the relevant legislation it is very specific: it can only be done if the ACCC gives it the tick.”
According to Conroy, giving NBN Co the power to offer volume discounting was to provide a “degree of flexibility” in the legislation.
“Let’s be clear: it has to be done with the ACCC’s approval,” he said. “This is a bill which will now work its way through all the committee stages.
“We will listen to the committees, we will listen to the other members of parliament and we will consider that some time in the first half of next year but I imagine this will be at least a six-month process we are going through.”
The comments follow a statement from Xenophon today that he would not be supporting the NBN legislation due to be voted on in the Senate in February because it currently allowed for a special deals for major telco providers.
"Last week I voted for the structural separation of Telstra, because I believed it would increase competition and help consumers," he said. "But allowing for preferential pricing on the NBN for certain companies will hurt competition and in turn hurt consumers. I will not be supporting those Bills unless every provider gets the same deal, regardless of their size or power.”
According to Xenophon, as the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures – Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 currently stood, NBN Co is allowed to ignore non-discrimination measures if this aided efficiency".
Xenophon also claimed the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill gave scope for NBN Co to favour certain providers based on their size and the revenue they may provide.

ISPs sign up en masse for botnet industry code: IIA

Internet service providers (ISPs) representing some 80 per cent of the Australian market have signed on to the Internet Industry Association's (IIA) iCode, set to officially launch this week, according to the industry body’s chief executive, Peter Coroneos.

Australian science institute goes without email for a day

The CSIRO is undertaking an experiment few commercial organisations would dare to consider — switching off email for an entire day.
The experiment, being carried out by CSIRO’s ICT Centre, is part of an investigation into new forms of collaboration and communication, according to the centre’s director, Ian Oppermann.
“Email isn’t the most effective way to communicate," he told Computerworld Australia. "It is simply information overload."
“We are trying to stop assuming and think about who we are trying to reach with our communications technologies and are trying it out on ourselves first.”
According to Oppermann the centre is instead relying on alternate forms of communication such as Twitter, telephony and face-to-face conversation.
“We have people who can sit and video conference stare down the lens of a shared virtual microscope and pass virtual forms and large data sets between each other,” he said.
“Rather than push ideas on to people, we are very much putting ourselves in the shoes of the people who ultimately use these technologies.”
Discussing the prospect of ‘email 2.0’, Oppermann said the next iteration of the technology would likely look “nothing like” the email of today.
“Email 2.0 should be much more a mash-up of content,” he said. “Now it is email with an attachment, but it would be much more user-friendly if you could talk realtime, from a video perspective, leave a video message or something which looks like a mash-up of different capabilities which you could move around in a much more intuitive way.”
While it was likely that video mail messages would begin to be used as a substitute for email in the next few years, this approach was not ideal as it simply replicated today’s problems, Oppermann said.
“We are really looking at a fundamentally different paradigm where you truly feel like you are talking to someone across the hall, or down the street or across the table,” he said. “If they are not there then you will be able to do non-realtime store and forward. If they are there it should be walk in, flick the switch and you are talking to them.
“Avoiding clicking 'create message', typing in an address and subject line means we step away from the limitations we have had, with essentially, what is exchanging letters.”
Oppermann predicted the transition from email to real time video interaction would be relatively smooth thanks to the more intuitive nature of visual communication.
Productivity benefits of real-time collaboration would also help the adoption of non-email communication in corporate environments.
“People deal with images and motion more readily than with written text,” he said. “Seeing and perceiving is quite natural. Our ability to process the same amount of information is much, much greater in that natural context.
“In a corporate environment, you flick ka switch you’re talking to a colleague on the other side, they will walk you through what they are trying to achieve — maybe there is a document that can be shared backwards and forwards — and you will be able to quite naturally talk to them."

Parliament cannot discharge its duty: Turnbull

Labor’s decision to withhold the release of the National Broadband Network (NBN) business case until December is resulting in the Parliament being unable to discharge its duty, according to Opposition communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

AAB: Send the NBN to the Productivity Commission

The Alliance for Affordable Broadband (AAB) has upped its campaign against the National Broadband Network (NBN), issuing a second open letter, this time calling upon the independent members of the House of Representatives to push for the infrastructure proposal to be pushed to the Productivity Commission for a cost-benefit analysis.

Tasmanian premier wants 'opt-out' rule for NBN take-up

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett is expected to introduce legislation to the State Parliament today, enabling Tasmania to adopt an opt-out model for the remaining rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in the state.
The legislation, flagged in October and understood to be the first in Australia, will ensure all accessible homes and business are automatically connected, unless they actively decline.
To date, the rollout of the NBN had followed an ‘opt in’ model due to legal issues around entering an owner’s property to connect optic fibre without consent. According to Bartlett, the legislation will make sure that the state can take “full advantage” of the NBN and ensure its benefits reach as many Tasmanians as possible.
“This vital infrastructure will drive Tasmania’s economic future for generations to come, and help future-proof our state by overcoming the tyranny of distance,” he said in a statement.
“From the advice and research I’ve received, I’m convinced an opt-out model is the most practical and efficient way to ensure all Tasmanians can innovate and prosper in the new digital economy.”
In October, Bartlett called on the State Opposition to educate Federal Liberal members on the benefits of the NBN and to refute claims made by Shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
As reported by Computerworld Australia communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has also thrown his weight behind an ‘opt out’ model, echoing the issue of needing written permission to enter a property.
"If David Bartlett, with the support of state Opposition Leader Will Hodgman and the Greens, are willing to amend the legislation and the planning laws in his state we think that would be fantastic. We are dead keen to connect to every home," he told Tasmania's Examiner paper in July.

Alcatel-Lucent moves to educate public on NBN

Alcatel-Lucent has moved to educate the public on the National Broadband Network (NBN), issuing a layman’s guide to networking terms and flagging plans to launch an online version shortly.

UXC yet to find buyer

IT services and consulting firm UXC has reported that it is yet to find a willing buyer, ten months on from announcing that it was seeking a buyer, in an effort to unlock greater shareholder value.
UXC owns New Zealand SAP services specialist Oxygen.
In July, UXC said it was in negotiations under due diligence, with an undisclosed party. The negotiations expired that month without result.
At the time it also noted it had entered into a number of talks with “significant parties” around a potential full bid for the company.
The potential sell off of the company was announced in February when UXC commenced a strategic review to examine ways to unlock greater shareholder value for the company, including turning to private equity and a possible demerger.
According to UXC executive chairman Geoff Lord, the company had pursued the strategic review with “great energy and dedication” and despite problems with its discontinued operations, believed the underlying business to be sound.
“If this value can be recognised without a transaction, that remains an option for us,” Lord said in an ASX report.
“The approach we have taken to the strategic review has not lent itself to quick result, but we are determined to provide the best result for our shareholders.
“Discussions continue with three parties, and shareholders will be advised of further progress as and when the board considers potential transactions to be in the best interest of shareholders and stakeholders [and] such potential transaction progress to binding offers.”
The comments follow the reporting of the company’s year to 30 June 2010 results, which include UXC’s business services and professional services groups earnings of $A43 million, up from $33 million for the year to 30 June 2009.
Revenues for the 2010 year were $473 million, up from $456 million the previous year.

Abbott acknowledges support for NBN in Tasmania

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has given one of the strongest suggestions to date that the Coalition will not roll back fibre deployed by the NBN Co should it be elected to power at the next election.

Vocus launches peering exchange

Vocus Communications (ASX:VOC) has launched a “multilateral internet peering exchange” service, PacificIX, connecting Sydney and Auckland.

One in four Australian software installs pirated in 2009: BSA

One in four instances of software installed in Australia during 2009 were pirated, according to a new research report produced by IDC.
The report, commissioned by the Business Software Association (BSA), claims the total impact of this loss in software sales as $US2.25 billion.
The report also pegs the rate of return to the Australian economy resulting in a 10 per cent reduction in piracy rates at some 3786 new jobs, and a $US338 million increase to Australia’s GDP over a two to four year period. It also claims an increase in tax revenues of $US44 million over the same period.
Looking at the combined 42 countries examined in the report, IDC found that the global impact of software piracy in 2009 was $US45 billion resulting in total losses of revenue, employment and taxes from related sectors in excess of $US110 billion.
In determining this result IDC said its analytical model factored in the relationship between spending on software and spending on related IT services and distribution using current, country-level market data and forecasts for the number of high-tech companies and employees; the taxes they pay; and the rate of PC software piracy and its commercial value.
In using this model, IDC estimated that lowering piracy by 10 percentage points per country in four years would globally deliver almost 500,000 new high-tech jobs, more than $US142 billion in new spending and about $US32 billion in new tax revenues.
“More than four out of 10 software programs installed on personal computers around the world last year were pirated,” the report reads. “Most of this unauthorised software use occurs in otherwise legal businesses that may, for example, buy licenses to install a program on 10 PCs but then install it on 100 or 1,000.
“In other cases, software piracy involves more overt criminal enterprises selling counterfeit copies of software programs at cut-rate prices, online or offline.”
In putting forward its recommendations for cutting piracy the BSA said public education was critical in creating the needed “fundamental shift” required in public attitude toward software and intellectual property.
Within businesses initiatives such as the implementation of software asset management (SAM) systems were needed to better manage and optimise software purchases, utilisation and maintenance.
Better enforcement of stronger copyright laws along with governments fulfilling their and obligations under the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) were also required, the BSA argued.
The BSA also reiterated its call for the creation of specialised IP enforcement units at the national and local level and providing dedicated resources to investigate and prosecute IP theft.
As reported by Computerworld Australia, the BSA of Australia has also called on companies to create dedicated roles within IT departments to address software compliance and has also upped its bounty for those dobbing in software pirates.

CSIRO to trial wireless over analogue TV spectrum

The CSIRO will begin live field trials of its experimental wireless technology in September to assess whether spectrum formerly used for analogue television can be used to deliver National Broadband Network (NBN) services.