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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 13 July 2018, 3:00 pm

Telcos

Lots going on in the telco land this week. First off, the Commerce Commission has reasserted its rights to oversee roaming into the future.

Roaming - the ability to acquire regulated access on to a competitor's equipment - is the cornerstone of a competitive market and without a strong co-location and roaming agreement, 2degrees wouldn't have been able to launch a national network in New Zealand.

There was plenty of opposition to the idea in the early days (some going so far as to describe roaming as a form of government mandated theft of private property) but since 2degrees launched the market has gone from competitive strength to strength, so it's important that the Commission retains the right to intervene to ensure a fair market for all as we move into a 5G world.

And if you need evidence of the need for regulated pricing in this area look no further than the current agreement between Vodafone and 2degrees which is described by the Commission as containing "anti-competitive clauses" that would allow Vodafone to invoke sanctions against 2degrees if the Commerce Commission started an investigation into the roaming regime.

Ah, no. Bad.

So that's good.

But on top of that we also have Hawaiki Cable finally bringing true competition to the international leg of our internet connection.

This is tremendous news because for far too long New Zealand has been reliant on one provider - Southern Cross Cables.

SCC is partly owned by Spark, which also has a hand in the trans-Tasman cable (Tasman Global) built by Spark, Vodafone and Telstra, meaning we have a lack of commercial opportunity in the international space. Hawaiki will keep both SCC and the Tasman Global honest.

High time to brush off my plans for world domination and mega-data centres in the South Island.

Finally Vodafone has joined the Unlimited brigade with a new mobile plan that offers unlimited calls and TXTs but also unlimited data.

Well sort of.

Unlimited is of course a very broad term and all these unlimited data plans have asterisks by them because of course there are limits.

The first is the most painful - no tethering of devices. So you can use your mobile data plan on your phone but not your laptop or tablet.

That seems like a limit to me, and I'm sure the Commerce Commission is going to take a look at just what's going on with an unlimited plan that is limited in terms of use.

But that peskiness aside, it's very interesting to see all three mobile operators now offering unlimited plans for around the $70/month mark. This is the start of the commoditization of mobile connectivity and the next step is of course the price war to win customers followed by the inevitable slide from being a full-service operator to being a dumb pipe. As a customer who just wants connectivity and isn't at all interested in the bells and whistles and marketing hype that goes with it, this is a good thing. If you're an investor in telco stocks and expect dramatic returns each year, you might need to reassess your portfolio.

TechBlog - ComCom keeps its eye on mobile roaming

NBR - Vodafone's unlimited mobile plan, like those of its rivals, has plenty of limits

NBR - Broadband barney: three universities terminate REANNZ contracts

The Spin Off - The new Hawaiki cable is doing what Sam Morgan and Peter Thiel could not

NBR - ComCom files charges against Spark for alleged over-billing, misleading customers

Bill Bennett - Potential entrant means ComCom wants to keep roaming power

 

Privacy

The Privacy Commissioner has been in to see the select committee about changes to the Privacy Bill and is confident he's been heard. This despite one MP musing out loud about "well if we have changes to the bill perhaps we should just send it back to be re-written" which would take at least a year and gets a firm NO from this reporter.

Part of the select committee's role is to make suggestions to improve the bill so let's just do that, eh?

It's timely we consider the Bill because Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have just been served with the first fines handed down in the UK over breaches to the Data Protection Act. The companies have been hit with the maximum penalty (£500,000 each) which Facebook will pay out of the petty cash drawer without losing its stride. It takes Facebook roughly *THIS* long to make that much money and the company won't lose any sleep over it. I suspect it's already paid its legal advisors at least that much so the actual fine isn't a problem.

That's set to change if the company (or any company) does something similar in the future because the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets the fines at either €20m or 4% of the company's global turnover. In Facebook's case, that would deliver a fine of £1.4bn which might make even the mighty Facebook sit up and take notice.

Data protection is going to be critical to the future development of our digital age. If we can't trust our agencies with our data at this level, nobody is going to be too happy about health records, bank records, insurance records, or indeed anything at all. Failure to protect user data devalues the entire digital ecosystem and that's not good for any of us.

NBR - Privacy Commissioner confident of winning greater powers

The Guardian - Facebook fined for data breaches in Cambridge Analytica scandal

 

Piracy

Arrrr, the high seas, the adventure, the cannonballs.

Oh, sorry. Wrong kind of pirates.

No, these days of course we mean copyright pirates and those ratbags who download content without paying for it.

Sky TV has been pursuing a Christchurch couple through the courts for selling "Kodi TV" boxes (basically a set-top box that let users circumvent Sky's legal rights to certain copyright materials. The District Court has ruled that yes, Fibre TV's sale of these set-top boxes is a breach of both copyright and the Fair Trading Act and sales of the boxes should halt immediately.

For Sky this is a victory, albeit a minor one, in the battle against piracy. The company has released the results of an online survey of 1009 New Zealand adults which suggests 29% of respondents are "regular" pirates (that is, people who stream, download, use VPNs or other piratical devices at all in a six-month period) and that up to 10% of users would "normally" stream content from a piracy website.

Putting aside the definitions for a moment (they would appear to be a little odd), the survey says 18% regularly stream pirated movies or TV, 14% regularly download pirated movies or TV, 8% regularly stream pirated live sports and only 3% regularly use some form of set-top box to watch pirated content.

Given how many paid services there are these days, this is far too high to be acceptable.

My opposition to "making your customers into criminals" is based largely on the business model that we are fast leaving behind. Until Netflix and Quickflix burst on our scene, New Zealanders were told they wouldn't be getting content delivered online any time soon and they should just sign up for a Pay-TV service.

At that point, running online marketing promoting content that wouldn't be available for months if at all was a ghastly way of upsetting customers and basically driving them to piracy.

Today, the world of content is almost completely different (sport notwithstanding and even there we're starting to see changes with Spark winning rights to rugby in a limited form). There is little excuse for piracy when a subscription to Amazon Prime can be had for less than the price of a coffee each month (for a limited time, obviously).

Piracy served a role in encouraging the content owners to realise they couldn't and shouldn't tightly control access via traditional channels, and that the market was ready for high speed, high quality content delivered online. But now we have those services, it's vital we support them.

NBR - Sky TV wins ruling over Christchurch Kodi box sellers

Stuff - Court ruling says Kodi boxes that cache copyright-infringing material are illegal


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