Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

No sympathy

April 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

A computer security researcher on his way to give a talk about computer security vulnerabilities at a major conference was told he couldn’t fly on United Airlines Saturday, due to comments he’d made on Twitter.

My first reaction was this seemed over the top.

United made the decision not to allow Roberts to fly on United “because he had made public statements about having manipulated airfare equipment and aircraft systems,” said Rahsaan Johnson, United Airlines spokesman.

“That’s something we just can’t have,” he said.

So what did he say?

Roberts’ troubles began Wednesday when he flew from Denver, where his company is based, to Syracuse, N.Y.

Once onboard, he pondered on Twitter whether he would be able to hack into the flight’s onboard computer settings.

“Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM, ? Shall we start playing with EICAS messages? “PASS OXYGEN ON” Anyone ? :)” his tweet read.

EICAS refers to the plane’s onboard communication system, the “engine-indicating and crew-alerting system.”

He tweeted about interfering with the plane’s systems, while on board the plane. That’s just stupidity, and he gets little sympathy.

EFF, which has taken on his case, said Saturday that United’s refusal to allow him to fly “is both disappointing and confusing. As a member of the security research community, his job is to identify vulnerabilities in networks so that they can be fixed,” EFF’s Andrew Crocker said on the organization’s website.

Yes, but you don’t do that by publicly tweeting about them while on a plane.


The geo-blocking lawsuit may be a good thing?

April 22nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

For two years, before Netflix’s New Zealand launch and Sky’s Neon streaming offering, a clutch of internet service providers, including Slingshot and Orcon, have provided Global Mode – technology allowing customers to watch programmes on overseas video streaming sites, sometimes months before they are shown by New Zealand broadcasters.

In contrast to tech-savvy youngsters’ use of torrenting sites and other shady methods to “unblock” trending programmes in the United States or Britain, Global Mode came with at least a veneer of legitimacy. While the tool is offered free, viewers still must subscribe to the overseas screening site – such as US Netflix or BBC iPlayer – satisfying customers with scruples that the content creator isn’t losing out. Nor does it require technical smarts: there’s no software to download or configurations to change.

I don’t use Global Mode, but I do use Hola to allow me to subscribe to Netflix in the US, so that I am paying someone for the content I am watching.

Now, broadcasting behemoths TVNZ, MediaWorks and Sky have joined forces with Spark (which both supplies broadband and on-demand product Lightbox) in a bid to squash the upstart. On April 2, they sent “cease and desist” legal letters to BNS and its customers giving them until Wednesday to close the service down. Some smaller internet providers folded; BNS and Call Plus (owner of Slingshot and Orcon) stared them down. Court papers are due to be served and, to no one’s surprise, Hollywood studios are joining the action.

I an understand that the broadcasters are not happy that they pay global content providers for an exclusive licence for NZ, and they find out it isn’t that exclusive.

Big Media say the technology breaches exclusive rights licensing agreements between overseas content-holders and local broadcasters. They claim this breaches copyright law; that the streaming rights of offshore providers such as Netflix US, Hulu, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer do not extend to New Zealand.

It is far from clear it does break copyright law. The argument is that people who use global mode are just doing the equivalent of parallel importing – something the NZ Parliament has specifically legislated to be legal.

Slingshot chief executive Taryn Hamilton says internet viewing options make the broadcasting rights model of selling the same product multiple times in different territories “completely out-of-date. The music industry were kicking and screaming about this a decade ago; they wised-up and changed their business model and now there’s a thriving economy for music.

“The broadcasters need to go back to the rights-holders and say exclusive geographic content is a failed model.”

I agree.

And this is where the lawsuit may be useful. If the broadcasters lose the lawsuit, then it will have global reverberations. It will be a clear court ruling that someone with rights to one country can’t stop people dealing with people with right’s in another country. Just like Whitcoulls can’t stop you buying off Amazon.

If the broadcasters lose, then they can go back to the rights-holders and say our rights are no longer exclusive. You have no legal capacity to make them exclusive, so all we’re going to do is pay you for non-exclusive rights. And this could set off a global change in breaking down the idea of being able to make rights exclusive by country in an Internet connected world.

So the broadcasters may win, even if they lose.

What if the broadcasters win?

Probably not much. The ISPs who use global mode will stop offering it, but most of their customers will then either use individual services such as Hola, or VPNs, or just simply go from paying for content to torrenting it. The one thing they won’t do is say “Oh I’m going to wait four months to see my favourite TV show, once an exclusive holder in NZ decides I can see it”.

So I think a loss for the broadcasters will be even better for them than a win.

A win for the broadcasters will be bad for the ISPs, but not affect end users much.


Why does the TAB have a sports monopoly?

April 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nathan Guy has announced:

A working group has been appointed to shed some light on the growth of New Zealanders engaging in offshore online racing and sports betting, Racing Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

I suspect “shed light” means trying to ban.

“The TAB is operated by the New Zealand Racing Board and has a national monopoly on all racing and sports betting.


Wouldn’t it be nice if National stood up for a belief in competition and choice and allowed any reputable provider who met accreditation standards to offer sports betting?

The Racing Board is required by law to distribute all profits from this betting back to the racing industry, which relies on these distributions to survive. National Sporting Organisations also receive a percentage of sports betting turnover,” says Mr Guy.

Again one could require all betting operators to give a percentage of betting turnover to respective sporting bodies, but allow competition.

“When New Zealanders place their sports and racing bets with overseas betting operators online, they operate outside of our regulatory framework. This means that offshore organisations make money on New Zealand racing and sports without paying their fair share of tax, or making contributions back to the racing industry or sporting organisations that make the betting possible in the first place.

“These New Zealanders are also operating outside the safety net of gambling harm mitigation that we have here,” says Mr Guy.

This sounds very nanny state like. If New Zealanders are choosing to use overseas betting sites, then that shows the monopoly held by the TAB is not satisfying New Zealanders. The solution is to allow choice and competition within NZ.

The working group will commence this month and is due to report back with recommendations for the Minister later this year.

The group will chaired by former Minister, Chris Tremain. Other members are: New Zealand Racing Board Chief Executive, John Allen; the Chair of Sport New Zealand, Sir Paul Collins; breeder, racehorse owner and the NZRB’s Thoroughbred representative, Greg McCarthy; and two Internal Affairs officials.

Chris Tremain is a good guy, but a group dominated by the racing industry is going to look at what is best for the racing industry, not what is best for the public good.

There is no chance they’re going to say the way to reduce NZers using overseas betting sites, is to allow more choice within NZ. They will probably try to criminalise NZers using overseas sites, or even worse demand the Internet be censored to try and prevent access to them.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pessimistic about where this may go.

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Patent trolls getting worse

April 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The same week that Alex Haro and Chris Hulls raised $50 million for their mobile app, Life360, the business partners got a letter.

It said they had three days to pay licensing fees to a company they had never heard of because their app violated its patented technology.

Haro and Hulls traced the company, Advanced Ground Information Systems, to a coastal home in Jupiter, Florida, with a phone number that initially went to an anonymous voicemail.

They couldn’t find any employees on LinkedIn.

To Haro, it was “a punch in the gut,” he said.

On the other side of that letter was Malcolm “Cap” Beyer, Jr., a 76-year-old who had filed patents a decade ago on cellphone mapping.

He said his attorney told him that he had a strong case against the start-up, even though the general technology had been widely used for years.

Beyer insists the mobile app’s $50 million in fundraising had nothing to do with it.

In the end, a jury sided with Life360 on all counts – but not before Haro and Hulls shelled out nearly $1.5 million in legal fees.

Winning can still be losing. They will probably never get their costs back. This is what patent trolls rely on – that it is cheaper to pay them some money, than fight them in court.

The bill has become a top lobbying priority this year for the tech industry, which says it repeatedly fends off frivolous lawsuits because of poorly written software patents and laws that favour patent holders.

NZ has intelligently removed software from being patentable. It can be copyrighted, but not patented. Patents and intellectual property laws are very important, but if the laws are unbalanced, they can cause more harm than good.

“Patent trolls” generally refer to businesses that buy up patents, particularly in technical areas like computer chips, cloud computing and wireless routers, with the sole intention of filing lawsuits or demanding licensing fees from tech companies, particularly start-ups around the time of their public offering.

Not wanting to pay for a protracted legal fight, the defendants almost always settle even if they think they’d win.

Kramer calls it a vicious cycle – the more companies settle, the more lawsuits are filed.

“It’s like a legal version of a mob protection racket,” said Noah Theran, a spokesman for the Internet Association, a coalition of web-based companies.

Patents are meant to protect and foster innovation, but with patent trolls they actually stifle innovation.

Last year, the House passed the “Innovation Act” by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

The bill would toughen requirements when filing patent challenges in court, such as limiting the amount of documentation that can be demanded before a judge makes an initial ruling.

The bill also opens the door to a requirement that plaintiffs pay legal bills of the defendants if they lose.

Supporters said they suspect trial lawyers with close ties to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., helped scuttle the bill.

Reid is now minority leader with plans to retire next year.

Likely to replace him as the Senate’s top Democrat is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – an advocate of patent reform.

President Barack Obama has said he supports patent reform.

So it might happen with Harry Reid out of the way.



April 17th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

JENNIFER Ringley was the first person to broadcast her life online.

In 1996, the 19-year-old bought a webcam and set it up in her room to take a photo every 15 minutes and post it to her website: JenniCam.

Her experiment offered the world a glimpse into our digital future long before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the Kardashians.

I remember Jennicam. 1996 was the year I first went online. Hadn’t thought of the site for a long long time, but it was the pioneer of the “sharing” which was to come.

Who else remembers Jennicam? Did you watch it often? I would check it out occasionally, but wasn’t a regular.

No tag for this post.

NZ broadband speeds soaring

April 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

Latest international figures on broadband speeds have reported New Zealand’s average connection speeds have increased by almost 60 per cent in the past year, said Communications Minister Amy Adams.

The Akamai State of the Internet report found that New Zealand’s average peak connection speed rose to 34.3 Mbps in the December 2014 quarter, representing a 59 per cent annual improvement – the highest increase in the Asia Pacific region.

The report also found that the average broadband connection speed rose to 7.3 Mbps (from 7.0 Mbps in the previous quarter) – representing a 39 per cent year on year increase.

The report is here. Good to see us increasing but still a long way to go – our average speed of 7.3 is 43rd in the world.


A geo-blocking lawsuit?

April 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Entertainment and television players Spark, MediaWorks, SKY and TVNZ have fired a warning shot to Slingshot, Orcon and Bypass Network Services, saying they are breaching copyright and operating outside the law by providing customers access to otherwise blocked international TV and movie services.

In a joint statement issued today, the four companies say they have sent the two telcos and others requests to cease the operation of “Global Mode” or similar services that get around the blocks stopping people in New Zealand accessing certain services. …

Slingshot’s Global Mode, for instance, has long allowed New Zealanders access to the US-version of Netflix, which only launched here last month.

The country’s biggest media players and Spark’s Lightbox television streaming service said “companies who set out to profit by marketing and providing access to content they haven’t paid for are operating outside the law and in breach of copyright.”

“We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights are being knowingly and illegally impinged which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide future clarity for all parties involved,” the four companies said.

I have some sympathy for the media companies. They have paid for the exclusive rights to content for NZ, and of course they will not like people accessing that content through companies in other countries.

However it is far from clear that giving people a work around geo-blocking is illegal. It would be a fascinating court case, if one occurs.

The problem for the media companies also is that even if your ISP doesn’t help you get around geo-blocking, individuals can do it very easily themselves. The Hola plugin for Chrome allows me to appear to be from any country in the world – and even better different countries for different sites. And it is free and takes 30 seconds to install.

Ultimately business models based on artificial separation of content rights by country, will not work in a global Internet world. The future will be selling content rights to global companies, who will sell in all countries.

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Trade Me transparency report

April 1st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Trade Me have published their 2014 transparency report detailing requests for information from Government agencies.

The requests in 2014 were:

  1. IRD 44,638 (info on no of members rather than individual inquiries)
  2. Police 1,663 (+80 from 2013)
  3. Disputes Tribunal 478 (+32)
  4. MBIE 181 (-88)
  5. MPI 89 (+19)
  6. MSD 76 (-83)
  7. IRD 62 (+11)
  8. Commerce Commission 29 (-19)
  9. ACC 28 (-15)
  10. SIS 28 (+15)
  11. Customs 26 (-14)
  12. NZDF 24 (+16)
  13. NZTA 17 (+3)
  14. Medsafe 14 (+8)
  15. DIA 12 (-10)
  16. EQC 7 (-16)
  17. DOC 7 (-9)
  18. SPCA 7 (-3)
  19. MCH 6 (-2)
  20. EPA 3 (+2)
  21. Corrections 2 (-1)
  22. REAA 2 (nc)

Good on Trade Me for being open about who they are getting requests from, and how many.


Harmful Digital Communications goes to committee stage

March 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new law to stamp out cyber bullying has passed through another parliamentary stage.

MPs debated the second reading of the Harmful Digital Communications bill on Tuesday night. It will create a new offence of sending messages or posting material to cause harm, punishable by up to two years in jail or a $2000 fine. 

Inciting someone to commit suicide will carry a maximum three-year jail sentence.

National and support partners United Future, ACT and the Maori Party voted for the legislation. 

But the bill has critics – including Labour and NZ First. There are concerns the new law will limit free speech, and may criminalise teenagers with harsh penalties.

The law also goes much further than proposals in Australia and the UK, which are less punitive.

Labour’s Clare Curran says she supports the intent of the bill – and cyber bullying is “horrible.”

But the legislation is poorly drafted and there was no input from young people, she added.  Labour are willing to work with Justice Minister Amy Adams with any amendments at the next committee stages.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he had raised “major concerns” about the bill with Adams and cannot guarantee his support at the next Parliamentary stage.

He said there may be some amendments from the Government which will allay fears, but won’t confirm his vote until he has seen them.

“I have given no commitment to support the Bill beyond the second reading, in view of the concerns that have been expressed, and pending the government’s response to those concerns,” he said.

His concerns centred on “criminalisation and law of unintended consequences…concerns about scope of coverage, and enforceability.”

The bill as currently drafted is quite flawed, and I hope the Government does make changes at the committee stage.

The bill addresses a very real problem, but sometimes the cure can be worse than the problem.


2 degrees buys Snap

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

Stuff reports:

2degrees is on a better footing to compete with giants Spark and Vodafone with the purchase of smaller telco Snap, and the addition of home phone lines and home broadband to its mobile service.

No price was disclosed for the purchase of the telecom and internet service firm, although an industry report has said 2degrees had agreed to buy Snap for $26 million.

2degrees first announced it planned to move into the fixed-line market in August 2012.

The two will combine under the 2degrees brand, delivering broadband and mobile service to consumers, businesses and enterprise customers nationally.

This is a good thing for consumers. A third full service telco will be good for competition. 2 degrees has been a real success story in the mobile space, and hopefully they’ll do well in other areas.


Reviewing Uber

March 23rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I finally got around to actually using Uber yesterday, and after just two trips in it, I can’t see myself going back to taxis anytime soon. Why?

  • A really easy to use app
  • Shows you the location of the car coming towards you, and its number plate
  • No delay once you’re at the destination by paying driver – automatically charged to your credit card
  • Around a third cheaper than taxi fares, and you don’t have the fare increasing buy the minute as you get stuck in traffic
  • Allows you to rate your driver (and vice versa) and refuse a driver without a good enough rating
  • You get a GPS map of your trips with them, in case you need to query a charge

The first driver I had is a full time Uber driver. He loves it, as he has lots of jobs, has a great 4.9/5.0 rating, and gets to pick the hours he works. Also He commented they get a better class of clientele with Uber. I’ve had four drivers so far and they all love being Uber drivers.

You may have to wait slightly longer for an Uber driver than a taxi. The first ride was an 8 minute wait, and the second a 3 minute wait. However the fact you can see when they are about to arrive is superb, as you only need to go outside once they are arriving.

If you want to give Uber a go, use the promo code uberdpf and you get your first ride of up to $10 free (as will I).

Three of the four cars I had were both very nice cars, similar to what you may get with Corporate Cabs. Drivers all excellent. I’m hooked.


GST online

March 18th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prime Minister has warned New Zealanders they could soon be paying GST on online purchases as small as a song download from iTunes.

Mr Key said it was inevitable that the cost of online shopping would go up as GST was charged to more goods and services.

GST is not currently charged on imported digital products such as music and film downloaded from services including iTunes.

Because they are not NZ companies. Good luck getting global companies voluntarily agreeing to put their effective prices up so they collect tax for the NZ Government. It is unfair to NZ companies, but there is no easy fix.

A suicidal government could try and ban NZers buying goods from companies not registered for tax in NZ. Ban access to iTunes, Netflix and the like. I think david Parker proposed banning Facebook if they didn’t pay more tax in NZ. National is not so stupid.

The only real solution is for the major economies to agree that a company resident in one country will register for GST type taxes in each country it sells to. But if even one major economy doesn’t become part of such an agreement, then it won’t work. The OECD does have a work programme for this.

Physical goods bought online and worth less than $400 also usually escape GST.

Because the cost of stopping every envelope and parcel at the border, and holding it until GST is paid by the buyer, would cost tens of millions. The de minimis amount should be set at the point which the revenue would significantly outweigh the collection costs. This may be less than $400, or more than $400.

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March 16th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar reports on the spectacular backfiring of Hamas attempting to reach out with a #AskHamas campaign on Twitter.

My favourite response was:

If a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one to hear it fall, is it still Israel’s fault?

Other good ones are:

  • how it chooses human shields
  • Given a choice, is it better to hide a weapons cache in a hospital’s radiology or pediatrics unit?
  • Why did you murder 30 civilians, including 20 people over the age of 70, at a Passover Seder in Netanya in 2002?
  • Are your brave billionaire ‘leaders’ still urging you and your children to martyrdom from the luxury of a 5-star hotel in Qatar?
  • When is the Gaza City gay pride parade this year?
  • Please provide the exact date of your next rocket campaign vs . And how many dead civilians before you accept a ceasefire?
  • Why did you murder my friends Orit Ozarov and Livnat Dvash and 9 other innocent Israelis at the Moment Cafe on March 9th, 2002?
  • When you drag someone into the street to execute them do you prefer paper or cloth bags over their heads?
  • Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
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NZ has fastest fibre growth

March 15th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

Fibre growth connections in New Zealand have tripled in the last year, putting us first of all 34 countries in the OECD, says Communications Minister Amy Adams.

The latest OECD Broadband Portal penetration statistics show New Zealand is now number one among developed countries for annual growth of fibre connections from June 2013 to June 2014, with an annual growth of 272 per cent.

The average annual growth of fibre connections in the OECD was 12.4 per cent.

“In the year to December 2014, fibre connections in New Zealand grew from 19,000 to 69,301. This is an impressive jump and demonstrates the impact that the Government’s $2 billion investment in the Ultra-fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiative programme is having on the telecommunications services available to New Zealanders,” says Ms Adams.

We are coming off a low base, but that’s excellent growth.

“Over the past ten years, we have moved up from 22nd place out of 30 OECD countries in June 2004 to being 15th out of 34 OECD countries for fixed broadband subscriptions as at June 2014,” says Ms Adams.

“We are now ahead of Australia, the US and Japan for fixed broadband, with more than 31 broadband subscriptions for every 100 New Zealanders signed up for this service.

Good to now be in the top half. The reforms of both this Government and the previous one have helped.

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What people will pay for a top level domain

March 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Most will be aware that over the last couple of years companies can apply to be the registry for new top level domains. The application fee is around US$250,000, which provides a minimum level that applicants will think they are worth.

A couple of dozen strings have competing applicants, and if they can’t agree between themselves on who gets the string, then ICANN auctions it off. We have the results of 10 auctions to date, which provides an interesting insight into how valuable different TLDs are seen to be. The winning auction bids were:

  1. .app $25,001,000
  2. .tech $6,760,000
  3. .realty $5,588,888
  4. .salon $5,100,575
  5. .buy $4,588,888
  6. .mls $3,359,000
  7. .baby $3,088,888
  8. .vip $3,000,888
  9. .spot $2,200,000
  10. .dot $700,000

I can see .app doing very well. Not so sure about some of the others.

For those wondering .mls stands for multiple listing service, a common term in the US real estate industry.


Apple case shows need for patent reform

March 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Apple has been ordered to pay nearly $US533 million by a federal jury that found the company’s iTunes music store uses software that infringes on patents held by a Texas company.

An attorney for plaintiff Smartflash LLC praised the verdict. Apple immediately announced plans to appeal and said the case shows the need for Congress to reform the US patent system.

The case involves three patents that Smartflash holds for software used in storing data files and managing access through an online payment system. The outcome will likely add fuel to a broader debate over the federal patent system and complaints that it’s easily abused by companies that make most of their revenue through patent lawsuits.

“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no US presence and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” Apple said in a printed statement.

The statement added: “We rely on the patent system to protect real innovation and this case is one more example of why we feel so strongly Congress should enact meaningful patent reform.”

I agree with Apple.The US should follow NZ and not allow patents for software. You have scores of companies that file patents on as much software as possible, just so they can then sue someone who comes along with a similar idea. As in this case, they never produce anything with their patents – they just use them for lawsuits.

It is likely the decision will be overturned on appeal, but it is a shame so much money is wasted on endless patent lawsuits between IT companies.

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An online court for smaller claims?

March 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The UK justice system should receive a radical overhaul for the digital age with the creation of an online court to expand access to justice and resolve claims of up to £25,000, the official body that oversees civil courts has recommended.

In a transformative proposal for largely lawyer-free, virtual courtrooms, the civil justice council is calling for an internet-based dispute resolution system to be available within two years.

Backed by Lord Dyson, the master of the rolls, who is head of the civil judiciary in England and Wales, the report says existing services – such as eBay’s disagreement negotiation procedure and Cybersettle’s blind-bidding operations – provide prototypes worth studying.

The online dispute resolution (ODR) model proposed in the report envisages a three-tier process: evaluation through interactive services and information, negotiation with online “facilitators” and finally, if agreement has not been reached, resolution by a trained judge relying on electronic submissions.

Only the judge need be legally qualified. If necessary, telephone hearings could be built into the last stage. Rulings by the online judge would be as enforceable as any courtroom judgment.

I think this is a very worthy idea.

There are already some smaller scale precedents such as the .nz dispute resolution service which has a mediation stage, and then an arbitration/decision stage – all done without a face to face hearing.

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ISP market share

March 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jon Brewer has estimated ISP market shares based on Stats NZ and APNIC (IP addresses) data.

The top 10 are:

  1. Spark 41.4%
  2. Vodafone 28.1%
  3. Callplus 16.2%
  4. Snap 2.2%
  5. Trustpower 1.2%
  6. Megatel 0.7%
  7. Woosh 0.7%
  8. Compass 0.6%
  9. Worldxchange 0.5%
  10. Actrix 0.4%

A huge gap between the big three, and the next seven.

In total 79 ISPs are listed, of whom 36 have over 1,000 customers.


English wants to have the geeks more involved in policy

February 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Public sector mandarins will have to change their ways by giving geeks a bigger seat at the policy table, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has warned.

Ministers wanted more “facts” and agencies should start referring to people as “customers” not clients, he said. …

English said the structure of government was going to change much more over the next 10 years than it had over the past 30.

“The use of other words like ‘clients’ hasn’t brought about in the past the kind of culture shift that we need,” he said.

English was speaking in Wellington at an annual homage to technocracy, a conference organised by United States firm SAS Institute, a leading provider of software tools to crunch “big data”.

Data and data analytics should be an intrinsic part of policy-making but that was not how the public service was organised, he said.

“We are making a lot of policy with people who know nothing about customers. We are organised with the sociology graduates ‘over here’ and the geeks down the corridor somewhere.” 

Departments didn’t bring technical people who understood their data to meetings unless ministers specifically requested it, he said. 

“That will change. Policy without using these tools won’t mean much to us because our policies are pretty pragmatic. They are focused on getting better results for customers.”

Very much agree data should be a big part of decision making. The analysis of data should occur in both the public and private sectors. An important part of this is to have the Government continue to make its internal data available outside of Government.

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RIP Red Alert?

February 20th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Insider reports:

The Red Alert blog site was once touted by Labour as the place where its MPs would re-engage with the public and members, to debate policy and excite voters. Now it resembles a ghost town, with digital tumbleweed blowing through its pages. The most recent post is from Darien Fenton, talking about her valedictory speech – last July.

Even before that is was dying. I do more posts in one day than they’ve done in the last 12 months.

Maybe the time has come for them to euthanise it.


iPhone 6+

February 15th, 2015 at 10:43 am by David Farrar reports:

THE Apple iPhone 6 Plus phablet has changed the way we use our smartphone, sending people around the world scrambling to watch video on their bigger and better screens, a global report has found.

The Citrix Mobile Analytics Report, which looks at the a global cross section of mobile network usage for 2015, found that Apple fans who own a 5-inch iPhone 6 Plus use twice as much data as those with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6.

The report attributes that extra data demand to a insatiable hunger for video for those people with the bigger screen phablet.

This does not surprise me. I have a 6 Plus. Since I got it, I have not used my iPad in over two months. I can use the 6 Plus to view videos, read documents, browse more websites etc. I was nervous about it being too big when I ordered it, but am very very glad I did get a 6 Plus, not just a 6.

It is no coincidence that this week Apple became the first company in history to break the $700 billion mark in terms of market capitalisation.


Air NZ and WiFi

February 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The ability to board a plane and shut off from the world is a luxury in an always-on world of technology. Or so it used to be. Airlines across the world are increasingly offering free on-board wi-fi, or at somewhat affordable prices.

Domestically, it was once an offering on Air New Zealand flights when it launched its Rugby World Cup branded A320s in 2011 (at a trial rate of a whopping $20 per megabyte). Quietly, and presumably because the trial was a flop, in-flight wi-fi disappeared within months and has never returned – not even on the new international 787-9 Dreamliners.

How surprising that people don’t want to pay $20,000 a GB!!!

Qantas in Australia experienced similar disappointment. In 2012 it conducted trials of wi-fi (at prices ranging between $14 and $43, depending on pre-purchased data allowance), but less than 5 per cent of customers used the service. It seems now, though, that New Zealand and Australia’s national airlines are falling behind.

In late 2014, Emirates launched free on-board wi-fi for the first 10MB (enough to check emails and social media accounts), with a nominal US$1 (NZ$1.35) fee for the next 600MB. This includes some flights in and out of New Zealand, such as the daily Auckland-Sydney A380 flights.

That’s not bad.

Eventually, Emirates will offer wi-fi as a free and standard in-flight service, much like its on-board entertainment selection.


Emirates reported a daily average of 3500 global connections across all of its flights last October, with the highest number of users on a single flight being 153 passengers.

Shows there is demand for it at the right price.

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UFB progress

February 13th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

MBIE has the latest quarterly report on UGB progress.

  • 43% of homes in the target areas are now UFB capable
  • Almost 70,000 homes now have fibre connected and working
  • Northland is 100% complete, Waikato 77% complete and Bay of Plenty 68% complete
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Has NZ caved on copyright in the TPP?

February 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The EFF report:

New reports indicate that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators have agreed to language that would bind its 12 signatory nations to extend copyright terms to match the United States’ already excessive length of copyright. This provision expands the reach of the controversial US Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (or the “Mickey Mouse Act” as it was called due to Disney’s heavy lobbying) to countries of the Pacific region. Nations including Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Canada would all be required to extend their terms and grant Big Content companies lengthy exclusive rights to works for no empirical reason. This means that all of the TPP’s extreme enforcement provisions would apply to creative works for upwards of 100 years. …

These are the terms of the proposal, revealed by several leaks of the TPP Intellectual Property chapter: If the copyright holder is an individual, the minimum copyright term would extend to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years after her death.

It is unclear if NZ has caved on just the length of copyright, or also on all the other issues in the intellectual property chapter. If it is the latter, that is truly bad as the US proposed text would be severely detrimental to the Internet, ISPs and users.

If they have only caved on the length of copyright, that is less bad but still undesirable. The current NZ law is for copyright to apply for life plus 50 years, and an extension to life plus seventy is not justified.

The reason we have copyright is to protect and encourage innovation and creative works. If there was no copyright at all, then we’d have few authors and movies. However no author or creator is encouraged to produce creative works by the possibility royalties will still flow 70 years after they die.

You could make a principled case that copyright should only apply for the life of a creator. However that could set up an incentive to kill authors to make their works public domain, plus if they have young children it is fair that royalties from their works should continue while their children become adults.

So I think a copyright term of life plus 20 years is what we should have. We should not be always extending the life of copyright to benefit some US corporations. Think if you could never put on a Shakespearean play without having to pay a large fee to the great great great great grand children of Shakespeare.

Copyright is an invented right, which seeks to balance the rights of creators and the rights of users. It is not an natural right such as free speech. It is an important intellectual property right, but extending the term to life plus 70 years will not benefit creators (they will be long dead). It will benefit a few large corporations.

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Top rated ISPs

February 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The annual Consumer survey of ISPs is out. Five ISPs had a rating of 90% or higher. They are:

  1. Inspire Net and Actrix 97%
  2. Snap 93%
  3. WxC and Now NZ 90%

Always happy to see Kiwiblog’s host ISP rated at the top.