Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

$1.2 million for a basic Council website is too much

July 31st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Christchurch City Council has spent $1.2 million upgrading its “outdated” website.

The revamp included new software, new content and staff training and took three and a half months. The site was last overhauled in 2009 and that version ran on systems that would not be supported past this month.

The $1.2m spend came out of the council’s IT capital budget for this financial year.

The director of a Christchurch web development company said the total cost was a surprise.

“That takes my breath away. You vaguely hear of those sorts of number getting thrown around. I’m struggling to get my head around where that cost would come from.”

The director, who asked to remain anonymous as his company did web development work for the council, said parts of the design, such as the user elements for rates and dog registration, were quite technical, making precise cost estimates difficult.

“[But] we’d have happily done the job for half that and probably, I believe, still arrived at the same result.”

$1.2 million is a huge figure. If they had designed a website where you could interact online with the Council in every area, that sort of price might be justified, but it is primarily just a static website.

As an example I went to their services section to see what could I do online. Under burials, there is no online form to book one in. You download a pdf, print it out, then have to scan it back in and e-mail it to them.

Other services which you can’t do online are:

  • Dog registration
  • Tenancy application
  • Report to noise control

Incredible that they spend $1.2 million and can’t even convert some pdf forms into online forms.

Tags:

A reader on Uber

July 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

A bit of feedback for you, and if you choose to publish, I hope will send a bit of a message from a platform that has been an advocate.

Bride and I have adopted Uber and loved the app, the service and the convenience. We also loved the price (typically not overly price sensitive – but it was a distinct bonus). However, last nights experience was not so good and had an element of biting the hand that feeds.

We were traveling from Khandallah to Newtown for a party leaving at 6.30pm. Clocked on the app to be told that there was a ‘surge rate of 1.5x normal rate’ to encourage more Uber drivers onto the road. We swallowed the dead rat and booked. $56 to Newtown (with a driver who bad mouthed other cab companies from start to finish – chatty guy and nice enough, but not classy or my preferred backtrack en route).

Leaving party went to book via app, ‘surge rate 2x normal fare applies’. Bollocks to that. Called Wgtn Combined, cab there within 15 and happy to text on arrival as was p!ss!ng cold and we were down a driveway. That same journey was $43 (and blissfully quiet!).

I know you have been a vocal advocate of Uber and market driven demand, I though I might whore your platform to fire a shot across their bows and warn them against premature complacency.

I recently had a 2x surge rate also, but that was from Wellington Airport at 1.30 am in the morning. Normally when prices get that high, I’ll choose a taxi instead. However there were none there, and around 30 people in a queue waiting for one.

So I had a choice of paying a higher rate for a guaranteed ride in ten minutes, or spending an indefinite amount of time queuing for taxis. I went for the Uber.

So yes I am a fan of Uber, but also not an uncritical one. My main frustrations to date are:

  • Not enough drivers in Wellington. Often have a fair wait for a driver
  • The estimated times for a pick up are often on the low side – ie they say six minutes and it takes ten
  • Surge pricing does occur fairly often

But overall still very happy with them.

Tags:

The NZ National Broadband Map

July 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There is now a national broadband map for NZ. You can enter in an address and see what the availability is of fibre, VDSL, ADSL and wireless.

The map has been produced by NZRS (who also run the .nz domain name registry), a company owned by InternetNZ with assistance from MBIE and of course the retail providers.

For example if you put in 175 Melbourne Road, Island Bay, Wellington it tells you:

  • Fibre planned for 2016 to 2019
  • VDSL available with download speeds of 15  –  60 Mbps and upload of 5 – 18 Mbps
  • ADSL available with download speeds of 10 – 22 Mbps and upload of 1 – 2 Mbps
  • Wireless not available

A great resource that has already proven massively popular with 60,000 visits within hours of launching.

Tags: ,

280,000 reasons why it was such a bad court ruling

July 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

538 report:

I’ve been working with NPR to discuss a number of the week. This time it’s 280,000 — that’s the number of requests individuals in Europe have made to Google so far asking the company to remove certain web pages from its search results.

The number of requests has been consistently climbing since May 2014, when the European Court of Justice ruled that an Internet search engine has to consider such requests from a person about search results related to that person’s name.

This just degrades the usefulness of search engines, if 280,000 people can get information on them suppressed in the results.

In my view it was a terrible ruling by the European Court of Justice, and I hope we never get anything like that here.

Tags:

Smart Police work

July 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been snooping on people’s Facebook profiles, and using the evidence to carry out drug raids.

The monitoring has been exposed by members of a blackmarket Facebook group, who complained of receiving letters out of the blue from police, warning them they were being watched.

One unidentified user received a letter from the Canterbury Organised Crime Squad, dated July 15, warned that their membership of a group suspected to be aiding illegal drug deals had been noticed. 

They might wish to “review” their membership of the group, the letter suggested – and it had a card for a drug abuse helpline stapled to it.

“Police have been monitoring your Facebook profile and established that you are engaged in a Facebook group that actively sells and trades in controlled drugs,” the letter said.

“Committing offences against [drug laws] can lead to penalties, including imprisonment.” 

Police confirmed on Monday that they were monitoring social media pages, and sometimes using the evidence they found to mount raids.

This is smart work by the Police. And it isn’t spying or snooping. If you’re stupid enough to join public groups devoted to criminal activity, you shouldn’t be surprised the Police take an interest.

Tags: ,

The power of the users

July 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

ELLEN Pao, who made headlines with a high-profile Silicon Valley gender discrimination lawsuit, was ousted Friday after a brief but stormy tenure at the helm of online bulletin board Reddit.

Pao took over earlier this year as Reddit CEO after being fired from the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, prompting a highly publicised lawsuit.

But she quickly ruffled feathers and provoked anger with the unexplained firing of a Reddit employee, leading to an online petition calling for her departure.

Reddit, which has more than 163 million users and describes itself as a forum for real-time journalism, said in a statement that Pao resigned “by mutual agreement” and would be replaced by founder and original CEO Steve Huffman.

It wasn’t the petition that did her in, but that many of the moderators of subreddits went on strike, did blackouts etc. Basically they got the message across that they were collectively more important to Reddit than the CEO.

Tags:

Tame on Uber

July 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jack Tame writes in the Herald:

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and I needed a cab. I was downtown, it was a Tuesday evening and that chilly breeze was holding off from blowing across the bay. In short, it wasn’t tough to find a taxi rank with a few drivers twiddling their thumbs. …

But Andre explained that he won’t be shelling out for an overnight direct on Air New Zealand anytime soon.

“Buying the medallion to own this cab cost me all of my life savings,” he explained.

“Two hundred and fifty grand that I’ll probably never get back.”

You have to feel sorry for the drivers. Their industries make you pay an obscene amount of money to drive a taxi.

The next few days I was in LA where the cabs weren’t quite so ubiquitous. With Andre’s words still in my ears, I whipped out my phone and let Uber do Andre’s work. Six separate times.

It was easy. It was cheap. And I can see why those cabbies in France and the UK are so worried that Uber will steal their jobs. In Christchurch alone, more than 1,300 people applied to become Uber drivers this week.

If history teaches us anything about commerce, it’s that consumer convenience and cheap prices will always win out. It’s why your running shoes were made in Vietnam and your T-shirt in Bangladesh.

No one wants anyone to lose their jobs, but economies are always forced to evolve. Just ask the Luddites – the machines always win.

In California, a 15-minute cab with Andre cost me $114. Covering more than twice that distance with six separate Uber trips cost me $82.

So it is a no brainer.

The difference is Uber drivers don’t need to pay $250,000 to be an Uber driver. They try to make the cost of entry as low as possible. The NZ Government should be doing the same – how do we make it easier for people to earn a living being a driver, while still having safety assurance.

Tags:

Hawaiki makes progress

July 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

For the first time, it actually looks as if the 50% Spark-owned Southern Cross Cable could get some serious competition.

Hawaiki Cable founder Remi Galasso has been trying to raise $400 million for a trans-Pacific submarine cable since 2008.

Today, Hawaiki signed an equity deal with SIL Long Term Holdings, the family investment vehicle of NBR Rich Lister Sir Eion Edgar. …

Speaking to NBR shortly after the deal was made public, Sir Eion would not say how much money he would put into Hawaiki but described it as “substantial.”

He said he would also be advising the cable company and helping it bring other investors onboard.  

Asked whether his investment was contingent on more customers coming on board (at the moment Haiwaiki has one firm customer, Crown agency Reannz), Sir Eion said “No, we’re committed.”

That is promising. Pacific Fibre got lots of potential customers but never got the capital. Hawaiki looks to be achieving both.

However the history in this space is that progress is a long way removed from commitment. Until they announce the project is definite, I’m not counting on it.

He said Hawaiki would lay its 25 terabit-per-second Sydney-Whangarei-Hawaii-mainland-US cable by December 2017. He expected it to be cashflow positive in three to five years.

It will be great if they achieve this.

Tags:

NZ broadband

July 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

InternetNZ says it’s not our broadband that sucks – it’s how we’re using it.

The group’s annual NetHui event logs on in Auckland today, hosting key figures from the industry, MPs and others interested in how the internet is changing our lives, and what lies ahead.

InternetNZ work programme director Andrew Cushen says New Zealanders like to complain about the state of our broadband infrastructure, but the reality has left the cliché behind.

“The simple fact of the matter is over the last five years in particular, the Government has put in a great deal of money through the ultra-fast broadband programme and the rural broadband initiative, to make New Zealand’s internet some of the best in the world,” he said on TV3’s Paul Henry programme this morning.

“Yes there are still some issues, yes there are still some people waiting for some rollouts to get there. But the story is really fantastic in terms of the capability of the network… By 2020, 98 percent of New Zealanders are going to have really fantastic connectivity.”

 

The Government has invested a huge amount in our broadband infrastructure. The fibre roll out especially is great as it is basically future proofed.

Speeds are lifting, and data caps have faded as an issue. The focus as Cushen says is shifting to what we do with it – as businesses, consumers, Government, citizens and families.

Tags: ,

Kiwiblog and the Harmful Digital Communications Act

July 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I have updated Kiwiblog’s complaints policy to take accounts of the Hamrful Digital Communications Act 2015. The policy is here.

The new section is below:

Harmful Digital Communications

If you believe a comment or post on Kiwiblog is harmful to you as defined by the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, please e-mail complaints@kiwiblog.co.nz. You may also text the editor on 021 940 045 to alert me to the complaint, but the complaint must be submitted via e-mail and include the information detailed below.

If the material is in a post written by the editor, then I will consider the complaint and amend or remove the material if I agree it is harmful. If you do not agree with my decision, then from 2017 you will be able to complain to the Approved Agency and/or the District Court.

If the material is in a post written by another author (such as a guest poster or a commenter) then Kiwiblog is an online content host under the HDCA, and safe harbour provisions will apply.

Kiwiblog will refer your complaint within 48 hours to the actual author and notify them that a request has been made for the material to be removed or amended.

The author has a maximum of 48 hours to respond to the complaint. They can do so in three ways:

  1. Not respond at all – which will lead to the material being complained about being removed or amended
  2. Agree to have the material removed or amended, which will will be done by the Kiwiblog Editor
  3. Not consent to having the material being removed or amended, in which case it will remain online unless a takedown order from the court is issued.

In all cases I can decide to remove or amend comments, regardless of the above procedure, if I believe it is in breach of Kiwiblog policies. These HDCA provisions are in addition to existing policies.

The safe harbour provision means that Kiwiblog does not have liability under the HDCA for material authored by others, so long as I follow the procedure summarised below. So any disputes are between the complainant and the author – Kiwiblog is merely the online content host.

The details of notices and counter-notices are in s24 of the HDCA, specifically:

(3) A notice of complaint must—

(a) state the complainant’s name and a telephone number, a physical address, and an email address for the complainant; and
(b) state the specific content, and explain why the complainant considers that the specific content—
(i) is unlawful; or
(ii) breaches 1 or more communication principles and has caused harm; and
(c) sufficiently enable the specific content to be readily located; and
(d) state whether the complainant consents to personal information that identifies the complainant being released to the author; and
(e) contain any other information that the complainant considers relevant.

(4) A counter-notice must state—

(a) the author’s name and a telephone phone number, a physical address, and an email address for the author; and
(b) whether the author consents to personal information that identifies the author being released to the complainant; and
(c) whether the author consents to the removal of the specific content.

The details of both complainant and author will remain confidential, unless permission is explicitly given to share your details, or ordered to by a court.

Tags:

Some alternatives to global mode

July 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

If you wish to be able to pay someone for the content you consume, and were reliant on global mode, here’s a few alternatives.

  1. UnoTelly has a one month free trial for NZers
  2. Hola – takes 30 seconds to install
  3. Fast VPN
  4. Hotspot Shield
  5. Unblockus

I use Hola – it is great, and free.

UPDATE: Read comments below about Hola. May be worth avoiding.

Tags: ,

The Harmful Digital Communications Act

June 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This afternoon Parliament will pass into law the Harmful Digital Communications Act. If I was an MP, I’d vote against the bill.

In saying that I recognise a significant amount of good will come from this bill. I also recognise that Amy Adams has made improvements to it, which have mollified some of the concerns people have had with the bill, which is why Labour and NZ First are now supporting it. In fact ACT is the only party against – David Seymour explains why here.

Here’s the good aspects to the new law:

  • The approved agency (will be Netsafe who are very good) will get legal standing, and be able to far more effectively mediate cases with Facebook, Google etc where real harm is happening – especially cyberbullying of teens
  • Specifics behaviours which are despicable such as encouraging someone to kill themselves, posting revenge porn etc will face criminal sanctions
  • Has an extensive safe harbour for intermediaries such as Kiwiblog and Trade Me, so that we’re not liable for content generated by others on our sites, so long as we pass complaints on promptly
  • Rather than me having to judge if a comment is harrassing, threatening etc, I can allow the Approved Agency to mediate, or the District Court to rule

The bad aspects include:

  • The 10 communication principles are too wide, and principle No 10 especially could lead to severe restrictions for online speech, with the principle being used to stifle legitimate criticism
  • The timelines for the safe harbour are very tight
  • A few dedicated trolls could make life hell for content hosts by constantly taking them to court, especially as there is no filing fee
  • Different legal standards now apply to offline and online speech

The Press editorial is opposed:

The purpose of the statute is high-minded enough.  It is designed to deter, prevent and mitigate harm to individuals by digital communications. But the thresholds set by the new statute are perilously low and potentially pose a  threat to freedom of speech. …

Both the agency and the District Court must  decide matters according to “communication principles” contained in the new statute.  Some of these are ludicrously wide.  One, for example, prohibits  digital communications that make a false allegation.  As those with experience of defamation law know, that can be an area of endless argument, and the new statute has none of the safeguards provided by two centuries of development of defamation law.  A similar risk arises from the prohibition on a communication that may be “grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual”. It does not take much imagination to see how that provision could be used by a deeply religious person to resurrect blasphemy laws that have largely (and properly in a secular society) fallen into disuse.   

A complainant will not be able to obtain any redress unless he or she can show that the offending digital communication has caused  harm. But harm has also been given an alarmingly expansive definition by the statute. It is defined as anything that causes a complainant “serious emotional distress”, a disconcertingly subjective notion. 

The statute requires any decisions to be consistent with rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It is odd the new statute should state this explicitly because those provisions should apply anyway. Presumably it was in recognition of the fact that the new statute potentially threatens those rights and freedoms.

The BORA reference should mean that the court only orders material to be removed in extreme circumstances. But until we have several cases go through the system, we don’t know what sort of approach will be taken.

As I said, there are good aspects to this law. It will help a number of people considerably. But as with The Press I fear the communication principles are too wide, and it will result in people ironically being bullied by others using the law for exercising their free speech online.

 

Tags: ,

A solution to scalping?

June 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

There’s been outrage over people scalping Super 15 tickets on Trade Me. No practical way to stop this unless you require photo ID with tickets to get into events. Also making tickets non transferable means if you get sick or injured or the like, then your tickets are wasted and your seats go empty.

The basic “problem” is that there is a fixed supply, and high demand. The secondary market allows those who want to pay a premium to get to go, after missing out due to the vagaries of online booking systems.

Now one may say it is unfair that the scalpers make the money, rather than the sports code. This is true. So why not have the sporting code itself auction off some tickets?

Sell half the tickets at a fixed rate (so some fans can get to got for an affordable price), and auction off the remaining half with the top say 4,000 bids getting four tickets each?

Tags: ,

Paris taxi drivers

June 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

ANGER against ride-booking app Uber continues to escalate with taxi drivers and even a former cop in Australia taking matters into their own hands.

Taxi drivers set fire to cars and blocked major roads in France overnight as protests exploded into violence against the illegal service.

One private chauffeur was pulled from his van by angry cab drivers who shouted “why did you come to work, you know we’re on strike today,” according to AFP. Meanwhile in Strasbourg taxi drivers posed as customers to lure Uber drivers and assault them.

American rocker Courtney Love was caught up in the demonstrations when a vehicle she was travelling in outside Paris was attacked.

She tweeted that protesters “ambushed” her vehicle and “were holding our driver hostage”.

In the most serious incident in Paris, one private chauffeur, who said he did not work for Uber “or any other app” was dragged from his van when he reached a blockade in the west of Paris.

Angry taxi drivers slashed the tyres of his vehicle, smashed a window and then set it and a chauffeur-driven van on fire.

On at least two occasions in Strasbourg in eastern France last week, taxi drivers posed as customers in order to lure Uber drivers to isolated spots where they were assaulted by cab drivers and their vehicles damaged.
Well that really makes me think that these are the sort of people I want driving me around Paris.
So sad that thugs think violence is the answer to competition. Little better than the mafia or the 1930s gangs of New York.
People choose Uber for probably four main reasons:
  1. Better service – easy to order, find, and pay for
  2. Cheaper
  3. Safer
  4. Better quality drivers

If you don’t want people choosing Uber over your own taxis, then makes taxis better service, safer, better quality and cheaper.

Tags:

Global Mode lawsuit settled

June 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The “Global Mode” case has been settled in favour of the big media companies.

A notice posted this morning to the NZX by Sky TV reads, in full: “The legal proceedings against “Global Mode” service providers have been settled. As a result, from 1 September 2015, the “Global Mode” service will not be available to any person for use in New Zealand.”

This is a pity, as it would have been great to have got a court ruling on whether circumventing geo-blocking technology is illegal. It would have had global ramifications.

My take: this is a victory for the old media companies but really only a moral one. Global Mode was unique worldwide in that it covered every CallPlus and Slingshot customer, without them having to do anything but there are still lots of easy ways for people to access geo-blocked sites. …

And perversely, had they lost, at least the big media companies would have had a legal decision confirming what everybody already knows: that in the age of streaming video services, there’s no such thing as an exclusive local license any more – and that the price Sky TV and others pay for local rights should reflect that.

I agree that this is not much of a victory for the broadcasters. It takes around 20 seconds to install a plugin to get around geoblocking, so people will still circumvent. And as Keall says, if they had lost in court, they could negotiate lower fees from rights holders. Now they will still pay inflated fees for theoretically exclusive content, but still have people directly accessing it from overseas sites.

Tags: ,

A 111 app

June 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government hopes a new smartphone app for emergency services will save lives and money.

Communications Minister Amy Adams said 70 per cent of calls to 111 were made from cellphones.

But many callers could not provide accurate location information to ambulances, police or firefighters.

This could cause delays as long as 15 minutes as emergency services tracked down the exact location of a crisis.

On average every minute caused an extra $4000 in fire damage to houses, Ms Adams said.

The minister announced today the Government was making a request for proposals to build the new emergency services app.

Seems a great idea. It can send your GPS location automatically. Also a good app may allow you to indicate the urgency of the assistance needed.

Tags:

Guest Post: Firemen, journalists, and a naked emperor.

June 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Deanne Jessup:

Here in New Zealand we have just had a survey that tells us journalists are the least trusted, and firemen are the most.  This got me thinking about why, and what if anything should be done about it?

Imagine the world where most fires put themselves out safely every time.  Only we never knew it happened.  Instead, firemen turn up, wave spraying hoses and extinguishers, and hit things with their axe-shaped tools.  Once the fires are out, we celebrate them as heroes, declaring them wonderful and the most trusted of us all.

Now imagine we found out through the internet that firemen are frauds!  Over time we discover it was all a ruse to keep them in work.  Would you still trust them?  What if it then came out that firemen themselves actually lit most of the fires?  Would you still call them when the fires appeared?  What if it was a fire that would not extinguish itself?  What happens then?

As absurd as this tale is, a variation of it has been playing out every day of the last decade.  Journalists have fallen from our graces.  Though obvious, my main moral is not ‘the boy who cried wolf’ though it is certainly relevant to ask what happens if we decide we don’t need the media at all.

In my view, this tale parodies the one from ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’.  We know we can get our news elsewhere; we know about social media, blogs, and live streams.  But like the people of the Emperor’s court who thought they had to pretend, perhaps we are worried what they will do if we point out their nakedness.  So instead the absurd situation persists where we pretend their relevance but trust them the least.

The internet has both caused this situation and is constantly changing the nature of it.  Initially, it revealed the nakedness of the media, now it is becoming the child from the story pointing loudly and shouting “you have no clothes on!”  Technology has radically reshaped the world.  We are moving into a new era.  Media are trying to reinvent, to clothe themselves in the attires of the day.

The current scramble to ‘change’ shows the media think the reason readership and profitability are both low is because they are printing in the wrong place, rather than the reality that they have been caught printing the wrong thing.  There is no road to trust by adopting old practices on new platforms.  Media must take to heart that no amount of blogging, social engagement, and digital media will change that we can now see around them.

They must understand that we can now see the truth, often faster than they report it.  To become trusted again, they must add value and once again report honestly, openly, and without prejudice or bias.  Of course, as they were ‘caught’ naked, a fair question is did they ever?

Tags: ,

PM changes phones for security reasons

June 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

When most people find their missing phone, it’s followed by a vow not to lose it again.

Prime Minister John Key, on the other hand, quickly bins his.

Mr Key has revealed that he gets rid of his mobile phone every few months for security reasons.

Those precautions are prudent not paranoid, an expert in technology and security says, as phones can be successfully tampered with in only a few moments.

The Prime Minister’s admission follows revelations that other world leaders had their phones accessed, and that US President Barack Obama and others use strict security measures.

While Mr Key’s phone has special security measures on it, he does not assume his conversations are private.

“I kind of work on the principle that I will be [listened to] at some point,” Mr Key said on More FM yesterday.

“If I was having a conversation with my national security advisers … I would never have a mobile phone in the room I’m in … because you can use it as a listening device, whether it is on or not.”

Left behind or not, the phone will be replaced every few months.

“If I left it in a hotel room by mistake, which I have done on a few occasions, I would just throw it out [after getting it back],” Mr Key said.

Barry Brailey, chairman of the NZ Internet Task Force, a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the country’s cyber security, said that was prudent.

“There is commercially available spyware-type stuff for handsets. If you can get physical access to the handset you can probably install that in less than three minutes.”

We know there are people in the country that will hack communications of their political opponents, so this is no surprise. Let alone, any attempts by non NZers.

Tags:

Speeding up the UFB installs

June 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams has announced:

Communications Minister Amy Adams has today released a raft of proposals to help speed up the installation of Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB).

The discussion document outlines four proposals for change:

  • amending the way in which network operators seek permission to access private property (in situations like shared driveways and apartment buildings)

  • enabling better use of existing utility infrastructure to more efficiently roll out fibre networks

  • providing more certainty to network operators regarding their ability to maintain fibre infrastructure installed on private property

  • establishing an expanded and accessible disputes resolution process to ensure that land access disputes can be resolved quickly and fairly.

They look like useful proposals, which should be implemented.

TUANZ have said:

TUANZ also strongly supports the proposal to investigate a new statutory right of access which would enable fibre companies to utilise existing assets, even when those existing assets traverse private land. “We see this as being key to extending fibre further especially into rural New Zealand as it significantly reduces the cost of build which is a key barrier in improving rural connectivity” said Mr Young.

One shouldn’t need permission from neighbours to install fibre, any more than to install water or electricity.

Tags: ,

The last 10 years

June 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A fascinating speech on media changes at the Washington Post. An extract:

•  High-speed broadband became pervasive only in 2004, 2005, making possible the communications we take for granted today. It allowed photos to load fast and instant viewing of videos — and it allows mobile connection to the web.
• Google didn’t go public until 2004. Today, there are more than 3 billion searches a day on Google.
• Facebook was founded in 2004. Now it has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.
• YouTube was founded in 2005. More than 1 billion people now visit YouTube each month.
• Twitter was founded in 2006. A half-billion tweets are sent every day.
• Kindle was introduced in 2007. Three in 10 Americans now read an e-book.
• Apple introduced the iPhone in June, 2007. Today 2 billion people worldwide use smartphones.
• Instagram was founded in 2009.
• Whatsapp was founded in 2009 and last year was sold for $19 billion to Facebook.
• The iPad was introduced in January, 2010.
• Snapchat wasn’t launched until 2011. It’s now valued at $10 billion or more.

Amazing how much has changed in just ten short years.

We have fostered a tight working relationship with our Engineering department, with 47 engineers working with our journalists. Four years ago, we had only four engineers in newsroom. When we move into a new office within a year, all 47 engineers will be embedded in our newsroom, working side by side with our journalists.

Interesting.

Tags:

Estonia’s e-government

June 11th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Estonia shows what you can do reports The Register:

In the Autumn of 2014 my wife was posted to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, for six months. One of the delights of being a technology analyst is you can you work anywhere there is good internet access. Estonia has excellent internet coverage plus 4G available throughout the country (even in rural areas – a matter or government policy). In addition, ‘being ‘local’ means you can explore the digital business scene.

So, armed with my identification documents, I went to a designated e-Resident office, having previously made an appointment online (of course). Although I brought passport-sized photos I was directed to a standard-seeming photo-booth which took my picture. Then I met a courteous Estonian officer who swiftly took my details and bio-identifiers while also linking to my electronic pictures from the photo-booth. I was told I would receive an email in two weeks if my application was not refused.

Thirteen days later the promised email arrived. I returned to the same office to sign for a package that included my e-Resident card and a neat, and super-small USB e-Resident card reader. Nothing in the process could have been simpler or more easily delivered (and from 1 April 2015 it has been possible to achieve the same at selected Estonian embassies.)

With an e-Resident card you can set up a business remotely operating from Estonia. As an e-Resident you can do everything legally required for a business by electronic means from afar, including setting up a company, signing contracts, opening bank accounts, making and receiving payments and paying all taxes.

I like the concept of e-residents.

Today’s Estonian citizen can (though he or she does not have to):

  • Identify themselves, via e-ID, an electronic identity system

  • Vote (iVote, available since 2007)

  • Complete tax returns (and make payments or receive refunds)

  • Obtain and fulfil prescriptions (eHealth)

  • Participate in census completion

  • Review accumulated pension contributions and values

  • Perform banking, including making and receiving payments

  • Pay and interact with utilities (like water, gas and electricity)

  • Interact with the education system (e-Education)

  • Set up businesses

  • Sign contracts

  • And more.

We’re not too far off. We can do most tax stuff online, and the census is online. Banks and utilities are all online. Education is getting there.

For example, digitising the police now enables a police officer in a patrol car to verify a car’s legality and insurance by querying the car registration system. If this shows the owner is a driver who has been convicted of a drink-driving offence within the past two years the police officer can stop and breathalyse that driver. Convicted drunk-drivers know this; unsurprisingly repeat drink-driving re-offences have fallen.

A good way to target.

Tags:

Broadband prices

June 10th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Consumers are getting a reasonable deal from phone and internet providers but are still paying over the odds for mobile broadband, according to the Commerce Commission.

The competition watchdog said telecommunications companies invested $1.69 billion in the year to June 2014, equalling the record set six years ago, despite a 1 per cent drop in industry revenues to $5.17b. Much of the investment was driven by the roll-out of ultrafast broadband (UFB).

Most of the figures in the annual report are based on a survey that is already one year old.

But they suggest Kiwis are paying broadly the same for phone and broadband plans, when compared to people in other developed countries.

Prices ranged from 22 per cent below average to 23 per cent above average, depending on technology and data caps, the commission found.

Consumers were also paying between a third and two thirds less for mobile phone calls and mobile broadband if they took up one of the $9 to $29 monthly deals offered by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

But the price of larger mobile broadband plans was still high, with a six gigabyte monthly plan costing $90 a month, more than double the average among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development states (OECD) .

That seems right to be. Home broadband plans are pretty well priced now. I have an unlimited data plan for a reasonable cost.

But the cost of a big data mobile plan is still over $100 (including phone plan also).

Broadband users chomped through an average of 32 gigabytes of fixed-line broadband data each month, up from 26Gb the previous year. Average speeds rose from 5.3 megabits per second to 7.3Mbps, achieving parity with Australia but still behind the 11Mbps average in the United States and Britain.

The Commissions reports are online here.

Some interesting stats comparing 2014 to 2008:

  • Total telco investment up from $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion a year
  • Fixed broadband connections up from 850,000 to 1,390,000
  • Average speed up from 2.7 Mb/s to 7.3 Mb/s
  • Unbundled phone lines from 3,000 to 131,000
  • Fixed call minutes down from 12 billion to 8.25 billion
  • Mobile minutes up from 3.7 billion to 5.3 billion
Tags:

Automatic stats data from Xero

June 6th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Statistics New Zealand hopes to provide a quicker and more accurate picture of how small businesses are faring as a result of a deal with accounting software firm Xero.

Businesses which use Xero’s cloud software will be able to volunteer to have some details of their business, such as their profit and loss, transmitted automatically to the government department.

Statistics NZ said the trial would test the feasibility of the department automatically collecting financial information electronically and if it was successful it could mean business owners would spend less time in future filling in forms.

If this means I have to spend less time every year filling in those 20 page business surveys, then I’ll be a very happy man.

Tags: ,

RMA changes needed to speed up fibre deploy

June 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chorus, the regulated telecommunications network operator, has called on the government to enact changes to the Resource Management Act to speed fibre rollout to multi-unit properties and those with shared driveways, which currently takes six times longer than for stand-alone homes.

The median time to complete a fibre installation in a simple property, such as a stand-alone house, representing 80-to-85 percent of builds, was 18 days, chief executive Mark Ratcliffe told a briefing in Wellington today.

More problematic were more complex builds, with multi-dwelling unit installations taking a median 130 calendar days and a property down a shared right-of-way taking 110 days.

Ratcliffe said the major delays caused in the consenting process came from Chorus having to find neighbours to confirm they didn’t object to the build, or from ongoing disputes between neighbours or third parties.

“The best role the government could play is help with the consenting stuff, that’s the one thing the industry can’t sort out on its own,” he said.

“We’ve got a pool of properties where consents have been refused, and the way that those work at the moment, we don’t get back to those for another six months, otherwise there’s just more cost involved.”

I support RMA changes in this area. Neighbours shouldn’t be able to say no to a fibre installation any more than they should be able to stop power or water to a house.

Tags: ,

The future for public transport

May 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Don’t get too attached to your steering wheel and brake pedal because self-driving cars could be hitting our roads sooner than you think.

The first privately-owned driverless vehicles could start appearing in New Zealand in as little as two years, once European manufacturers start bringing them to market, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

Bridges is in the German city of Leipzig to attend the International Transport Forum’s annual summit, where a lot of the talk has been about the rapid pace of driverless car technology and how it could dramatically reduce the number of vehicles clogging up our roads.

Yep, they may be a great way to reduce congestion.

The International Transport Forum – a global think-tank for transport policy – unveiled the results of a major study into the impact of self-driving cars at its summit on Thursday.

It discovered that a fleet of self-driving shared cars could make 90 per cent of conventional cars in a mid-sized city superfluous.

Researchers used actual transport data from Lisbon, Portugal to model the impact of two types of self-driving cars: those shared simultaneously by several passengers, dubbed TaxiBots, and those that pick-up and drop-off single passengers, known as AutoVots.

It found that a large-scale uptake of TaxiBots, in conjunction with high-capacity public transport, would remove nine out of every ten cars from the road without hindering people’s mobility.

I’d happily get rid of my car, if affordable taxibots were available for the occasional car trip. Most of us only use our cars a fraction of the day.

Sarah Hunter, head of public policy at Google’s technology development facility Google[x], said the world was on the cusp of having cars and planes that required no interaction from humans at all, apart from inputting a destination.

“It can take you from A to B without you ever being involved. In fact, it’s so autonomous, it doesn’t require a steering wheel or brake.”

Such vehicles would dramatically reduce the number of road accidents, which statistics showed were 94 per cent down to human error.

“It’s not the car that brakes, it’s the human that doesn’t brake,” she said.

“[Self-driving cars] never get drunk, they never get tired, they never get distracted by a text message.”

Self-driving cars would also improve the quality of life for many, including the blind and elderly who cannot drive.

The is the future, and it will be in our lifetime.

Tags: