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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 22 November 2019, 6:33 pm

Here's this week's update from TechBlog Editor Paul Brislen.

Commerce Commission Review of UFB Regulation

The Commerce Commission has put out its latest view on how to regulate telecommunications after the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) project is complete.

I think it's got it wrong.

No, not about regulating the fibre market - given what's gone before, that has to be done and will be tedious and is no doubt important but nobody outside the telcos actually cares.

No, the Commerce Commission should be regulating another side of the telecommunications market - the Over the Top (OTT) providers who now make a huge amount of money from the services they sell but pay very little or no tax and avoid having to share the "burden" of providing the infrastructure itself.

The FAANG group (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google and I presume now Disney as well so let's call it FAANGeD) get a free distribution platform paid for by someone else. Along the way they've taken over parts of the market that used to make money (text messaging in particular) and given it away for free.

This appears to the be the way of the tech disruption model: disrupt some other guy's business by offering the a product you don't care about for as little as possible in order to take out a competitor. We've seen it happen before - twice in the web browser space at least - and now these OTT operators are doing it to mainstream media, to entertainment and to the democratic process itself.

I'd like to see the Commerce Commission take a closer look at the way these companies operate in New Zealand, the "proof" they offer clients about click throughs that have been called out as fake, the lack of willingness to abide by privacy or electoral laws and so much more besides.

If there's an area of telecommunications that needs to be looked at closely from an anti-competitive point of view it's this. The cables are in the ground and the frequencies are on offer - how about we move on to where the damage is really being done?

NZ Herald - Chorus chairman lays down the law to ComCom (PAID)

Commerce Commission - Fibre input methodologies

Computerworld - Commerce Commission details proposed fibre broadband regulations


Too important to ignore

The closer we get to the election cycle the more concerned I am about the possibility for interference, for misinformation and for misguided outcomes.

We've covered the basics of this before, including having a chat with Minister of Justice (and overlord of the election process) Andrew Little who has asked the Ministry of Justice to stand up a team dedicated to countering fake news with actual information delivered as neutrally as possible.

Think of it as a modern equivalent of the old "mainstream media" thing we used to have.

In this instance the unit is concerned about misleading (lying) information being given out over the various referenda we have coming up but equally it should be applied to the election itself.

We have a very light handed approach to our democracy that I love. From taking muffins to the school hall on election day for the scrutineers to the Biscuit Tin of Democracy, there's something particularly homespun and delightful about the way New Zealand approaches this fundamental aspect of our life.

But it's also at risk from those who would derail us from being able to self-determine and that's just not acceptable.

In other countries Facebook has provided access to some of the information around its advertising so scrutineers can take a closer look at spending patterns, at reach and all the rest of the data that Facebook gathers on us.

Of course, that's not available in New Zealand for no real reason but even where it is available it's coming under question for its detail and its accuracy, and rightly so after it turns out Facebook was telling porkies about how many clicks videos got in the last few years.

The BBC is asking Facebook users to send screen shots of advertising they see along with the detail that Facebook tucks away under the "why am I seeing this ad?" button and I'd love to see the Electoral Commission do something similar here.

Given the level of interest in interfering in elections around the world it's vital we make sure our election process is as clean as we've come to expect.

We might be small but this is important to Kiwis from all sides of the political spectrum.

NZ Herald - Another Aussie crackdown on Big Tech - this time targeting fake ads on Facebook (PAID)

The Correspondent - The new dot com bubble is here: it's called online advertising

NBC - Leaked documents show Facebook leveraged user data to fight rivals and help friends

Washington Post - I worked on political ads at Facebook. They profit by manipulating us

Wired - Paid Political Ads Are Not the Problem. Our Perceptions Are

CNBC - Both Facebook and Twitter are getting it wrong when it comes to political ads

RNZ - Plans to combat misinformation in election-year referendum debates

Washington Post - Did Russia interfere in Brexit?: An unpublished report roils U.K. politics before election


5G - safer than ever

Yes, it's that time of the week where we round up yet more lunacy and cray-cray from the exciting world of 5G.

Except this time it's quite reasoned and frankly upbeat.

The stories are starting to focus on the rumour mill rather than on the rumour and that's a good thing because, if you're playing along at home, you'll know that 5G is an evolution of existing cellphone network technology and not only isn't a death ray invented by the Israelis to shoot down planes (one I heard this week) but is actually less powerful than 4G so even less likely to kill you in your sleep.

Telcos both here and in Australia are urging governments to do more to support them in rolling out 5G services because up till now there's been no concerted effort to explain that 5G is safe. Much as we've seen with the hysteria over vaccines, 5G has been painted as some kind of evil force that must be stopped instead of a useful technology that helps people and, again much like vaccines, it's important that governments say this out loud.

I'm glad to hear the PM's science advisory team will be making some noise about this because I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on all the fun I've been having banging this drum.

But thankfully there are now more voices joining in to say it's OK to have a cellphone and no it won't cause you to grow a third eye or a tail (dagnabit) but do look up when you're crossing the road, OK? The give way law is based on mass and cars are quite a bit bigger than you are.

In a world where technology is taking over any number of areas of our lives, and becoming something we rely on to conducting banking, look after personal information, entertain us, allow us to vote and keep our health information safe, it's important we have comfort and also confidence in the devices and processes we use. If we lose that assurance, we risk alienating a tremendous number of people from a process that is designed to enrich their lives, not make it more stressful.

NZ Herald - Telcos urge govt to combat 5G scaremongering, Chorus insists it's on board (PAID)

NZ Herald - Juha Saarinen: 5G and the ongoing disinformation war (PAID)

Newsroom - 5G: Atomic clocks, Massive MIMOs and sliced networks

BBC - Does 5G pose health risks?

NY Times - The 5G Health Hazard That Isn't


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