InternetNZ and the new National Government - where to for the Internet

02 Oct 2014

I've been thinking a lot about the General Election results and what they mean for the Internet in New Zealand. 

First off, we want to congratulate the National Party on their win. We've had a largely positive and constructive relationship with the National Party, particularly in the last year, and we respect Amy Adams as a Minister. We look forward to having an equally constructive relationship with her this term, or with whomever holds the ICT portfolio next.

The Government is one of the key constituencies of the New Zealand Internet Community. As one of the voices within that Internet Community we value this relationship as a way to cooperate in achieving mutual goals - in our case, furthering our cause of an Open Internet and our mission of promoting the internet's benefits and uses and protecting its potential. We have achieved a lot working together - and there's much more to do.

With that in mind, here are a couple of big ticket items that we think are especially relevant to the Internet in New Zealand:

The UFB and RBI: There is good news for extending higher quality connectivity options for New Zealanders - the UFB from 75% to 80% of the population, and the RBI with an additional $100m of investment in Community led deployments. With the latter in particular, we see a unique role we can play in asssisting communities with helping them identify their Internet needs to enable them to put up viable and compelling bids for this RBI extension funding. We're looking forward to seeing that detail, and it’s something we hope to work on more next year - perhaps a great workshop idea for NetHui 2015.

There remains a quite massive elephant in the room though, and that's copper broadband pricing. InternetNZ is among the parties stuck in front of the Commerce Commission at the moment, debating this in detail. It would not be a surprise if one or more parties ended up taking the issue to court, as is their right.

We are pleased the Government didn't pursue statutory changes to this part of the model last year, and all that has happened since proves that was the right way to go. With a newly negotiated Chorus-CFH contract, with Chorus getting on top of the costs of rollout, and with changes to Chorus financing options with their banks, there's no need to intervene in the regulatory framework - it's working to plan, in the manner that Chorus/Telecom and the government agreed in 2011. 

We continue to urge all parties in this process, including the Government, to respect the independent role of the Commission in balancing the interests of all parties. These decisions should be made on the basis of sound evidence and careful analysis; not on lobbying or corporate profitability assessments alone.

Surveillance and Privacy: Elements of the general election campaign just finished have, among other things, reinvigorated the very valid questions how our Government is using the Internet to conduct surveillance. Some of these questions have been around for a while, and continue to concern us: the Internet was not designed to be an "all seeing eye" for monitoring the populace, and indeed to use it as such risks chilling innovation, trust and use of the Internet. That limits the gains we can enjoy from the investment the country is making in better broadband, and the rise of a whole new sector of online services.

The Government has made it clear that it thinks the current balance between security and privacy on the Internet is about right. It has also said that it’s committed to regular reviews of the GCSB and the NZSIS, the next of which is due to happen in 2015. Through submissions, we've been clear that the New Zealand Internet Community remains concerned about these ongoing stories of mass surveillance. We hope these reviews are as inclusive as they can be, and that they serve to ameliorate these concerns. 

We will be remaining vigilant in both our questioning and in action if necessary.