The Greens’ Internet Rights and Freedom Bill

April 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Greens have released a crowdsourced bill – the Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill. It’s a serious and valuable contribution to politics and the Internet. There are three major aspects to their proposal.

  1. Ten Internet rights and freedoms
  2. Creation of an Internet Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission
  3. Creating a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for the NZ Government.

The ten proposed Internet rights and freedoms are:

  1. Right to Access
  2. Freedom from search, surveillance and interception
  3. Freedom of expression
  4. Freedom of association
  5. Right to privacy
  6. Right to encryption technology
  7. Right to anonymity
  8. Right to a safe and secure Internet
  9. Freedom of innovation
  10. Freedom from restriction

The full bill is here.

While I don’t agree with everything in the bill, there’s a lot I do agree with, and I think it would be an excellent bill to pass first reading and go to select committee for feedback.

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The Internet economy potential

March 31st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand retailers are falling behind other sectors of the economy in their use of the internet to drive sales and business management, says a major new study funded by internet NZ and the global internet search engine, Google.

The “Value of internet Services to New Zealand Businesses” report, issued this morning, says firms using the internet well are between 6 per cent and 11 per cent more productive than their competitors in the same field. Best practice users were as much as 73 per cent more productive than average businesses in their industry.

The report suggests if all businesses were using the internet to its full potential, New Zealand’s economy – currently worth around $210 billion of output annually – could get a $34 billion efficiency and productivity boost.

Maybe retailers should stop trying to tax the Internet and should embrace it more!

The research was conducted by the economic research consultancy Sapere and used data from 5,589 businesses in the Statistics New Zealand Business Operations Survey.

It excluded firms in the information technology sector, which were presumed to be high internet users and interviews with 76 businesses were conducted in the tourism, retail, dairy/agriculture, and professional services sectors.

The report says while internet speed and connectivity were once the major issue, that is no longer so. The use to which the internet is put is the larger issue for most firms.

In the retail sector, where the common complaint is that e-commerce is robbing traditional shops of sales, the survey found retailers were “slightly lower users of internet services than businesses as a whole.”

“They are less likely to have a website, less likely to have most of their staff online, and less likely to use fibre, with bigger firms generally higher users than smaller firms.

“On our numbers, it is highly unusual for retailers to be selling a lot online at this point, with only 3 per cent of firms reporting that more than a quarter of their sales are made online, although retailers are heavy online purchasers.”

And of interest:

It reports one service provider as saying no more than one in 12 New Zealand retailers was doing a good job of integrating online and offline stores.

So huge potential there if it is grasped. The full report, for those interested, is here.

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Enemies of the Internet

March 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its annual Enemies of the Internet report. The enemies they list, and why are:

  • Saudi Arabia: prime centre of content blocking
  • Bahrain: No Internet spring
  • United Arab Emirates: Tracking “cyber-criminals”
  • USA: NSA symbolises intelligence services’ abuses
  • Cuba: Long live freedom (but not for the Internet)!
  • Syria: online tracking is a family affair
  • Iran: Cyberspace ayatollahs
  • Russia: control from the top down
  • Arms trade fairs: Surveillance dealerships
  • United Kingdom: World champion of surveillance
  • Belarus: Apparatus of repression
  • Uzbekistan: Welcome to digital tyranny
  • Pakistan: Upgraded censorship
  • India: Big Brother up and running
  • Vietnam: Targeting bloggers
  • China: Electronic Great Wall getting taller
  • Turkmenistan: News black hole
  • North Korea: the Web as a pawn in the power game
  • Sudan: Scoring high in censorship
  • Ethiopia: full online powers

How sad the US and UK make the list due to their over-reach of surveillance. Surveillance should be targeted as suspects with probable cause, not the entire population.

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A Chorus of one

November 28th, 2013 at 3:38 pm by Jadis

New Zealand First, United Future and the Maori Party have all stated their position that the Government should listen to the Commerce Commission on the Chorus and Copper tax issue. It appears to have been a highly coordinated campaign where each Party stated their position in quick succession.

What does this mean for the Government? Well, the silver lining is that they can ditch a proposal that was fairly unpopular and work on alternative arrangements for assisting Chorus that doesn’t involve internet users paying more and undermining the Commerce Commission.

 

Update: ACT and Mana Party have also added their support. I understand Greens and Labour Party will follow in the next hour.

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2013 World Internet Project

November 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The 2013 survey results for NZ from the World Internet Project have been released. A huge amount of data in the report. Some interesting highlights:

  • 92% of NZers use the Internet, 5% never have, and 3% used to
  • Only 2% of users are still on dial-up
  • 79% of users access the Internet through laptops, 74% desktops, 68% mobile phones, 48% tablets, 15% gaming consoles and 10% Smart TVs
  • 34% of users use the cloud
  • 81% of NZers say the Internet is an important source of information compared to 47% for TV, and 37% for radio and newspapers
  • 70% of users are on Facebook, 7% of LinkedIn and 3% on Twitter
  • Only 22% of NZers say the Govt should regulate the Internet more than it does
  • Around 60% of male users aged under 45 visit sexual content sites compared to around 20% of female users of the same age
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NZ Internet Stats

October 14th, 2013 at 11:17 am by David Farrar

Some interesting data from Stats NZ on Internet use in NZ:

  • Broadband connections up from 93% in 2012 to 95% in 2013
  • Fibre connections up from 5,400 to 13,000
  • Those with download speed over 8 Mb/s up from 70% to 88%
  • Those with data cap of 50 GB or more (or none) up from 21% to 34%
  • Average monthly data used up from 16 GB to 23 GB
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Now that’s a net addiction

January 5th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police say two California teenagers used prescription sleeping medication to drug the milkshakes of their parents so they could use the internet.

The parents called police, and the 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old friend were taken to Juvenile Hall in California.

The Sacramento Bee reports the girls offered to pick up milkshakes at a fast-food restaurant for the parents of one of the girls on Friday.

The drug was mixed into the shakes, and the couple fell asleep. The suspicious parents picked up a drug test kit the following day.

The girls told investigators they wanted to use the internet, which the parents shut down daily at 10pm.

I’m not sure what is sadder – the girls drugging the parents, or the fact the parents suspected they had been drugged and rather than confront the girls, got a drug test done and had them arrested.

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The Greens ICT discussion paper

December 17th, 2012 at 3:54 pm by David Farrar

The Greens have put out a nine page discussion paper on some ICT issues. Good to see some policy discussion occurring. Some of the challenges they cite are:

New Zealand is reliant on a single fibre optic cable system connecting us to the rest of the world. This vulnerability is an issue for the entire New Zealand economy, not just the ICT sector.

Reliance on a single provider for our internet means higher prices, data caps, and less innovation for services. In time, international capacity will also become an issue. And a single cable system means that our link has less resilience. If the cable breaks or a technical fault occurs (as it did on November 9, 2012) then New Zealand may remain disconnected from the rest of the world until the connection is repaired.

I certainly agree it would be great to have competition for Southern Cross Cable, and lower prices and larger (or no) data caps. This is generally occurring anyway, but international cable competition would help further.

The technical vulnerability is somewhat over-stated as the Southern Cross Cable is a figure of eight loop and even if one portion falls over, service shouldn’t be significantly disrupted.

As fibre to the home gets rolled out, bandwidth needs will increase almost exponentially.  However against this cable technology improves and SCC has already increased their capacity by 700%.

The New Zealand Government is indifferent to the local ICT sector in its current procurement policies, resulting in the purchasing of proprietary software from foreign companies. For example, the first part of a $2 billion Inland Revenue IT contract was awarded to French firm Capgemini and was designed in a way to make it nearly impossible for any New Zealand provider or group of providers to bid for the contract.

When all other things are equal, of course you want NZG to use local firms. But all other things are rarely equal.  All oppositions always complain about overseas companies winning tenders, but never change anything much because it is both illegal to do so under many trade agreements, but also it is impractical. Do you put in place a rule such as go with a NZ company unless they are 5% more expensive? Why 5%? Why not 6% or 4%?

Anyway the proposals:

The Green Party proposes that the Government takes a $100 million cornerstone investment in a second fibre optic cable to ensure it is successfully constructed and stays in New Zealand control.

The NZ control part is silly xenophobia. Southern Cross Cable majority shareholder is a NZ company.

As to the substance, I am unsure that the reason Pacific Fibre failed was lack of capital. Many people were willing to invest in it. Their failure, to me, appeared to be an inability to get enough long-term customers to make it profitable. This was no fault of the directors. It is a very very difficult proposition to get long-term customers against an incumbent who already has customers at very high initial rates, and can lower marginal rates massively and still be competitive.

Competition would be good to set off such a price war, but merely having the Govt invest $100m into a company does not mean it could successfully compete.

While this is a significant investment, it amounts to 0.8 percent of the National Government’s $12 billion spend on new motorways. Reprioritising this spending would enable a $100 million investment in a second cable without adding to Government debt.

Oh this is nonsense. First of all the motorway spending basically comes from petrol tax. Are the Greens really saying they will use petrol tax to fund a part-share in a fibre cable? Secondly the Greens have already claimed all the motorway funding for rail and other projects.

There are pros and cons of a Govt investment into an international cable. However it is dishonest to claim it won’t lead to extra debt – of course it would.

We propose that government agencies be required to consider the wider economic benefits to New Zealand of supporting the local ICT industry when making purchasing decisions.

I think you will find most already do. This won’t change anything I’d say.

As a first step towards developing awareness, government agencies will have to measure how much of their current ICT spend is going to local companies and report on it.

That’s not a bad idea though. In fact I believe all government contracts quantums should be publicly disclosed

Government agencies will be required to use open standards for new projects and use open source software, where possible.

Many government agencies are already big open source and standards users. I’d be careful though about making open source software a requirement, unless impossible. That is a step too far. For example it would mean no school would be allowed to use Microsoft products.

Finally, we need to amend the Patents Bill to prevent the patenting of software

And here I agree.

Overall some good issues the Greens have touched on, but the solutions are very debatable. But that is what discussion documents are for.

You can provide feedback to the Greens on their discussion paper here.

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The French want to tax search engines

October 31st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

French President Francois Hollande is considering a pushing for a new tax that would see search engines such as Google have to pay each time they use content from French media.

Hollande discussed the topic with Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, during a meeting in Paris on Monday.

Hollande says the rapid expansion of the digital economy means that tax laws need to be updated to reward French media content.

Oh yes, lets tax the service that allows us to find content on the Internet. Moron.

Google has opposed the plan and threatened to bar French websites from its search results if the tax is imposed.

As they should. Imagine the howls of complaints. Would get the Government tossed from office in days.

Germany is considering a similar law, and Italian editors have also indicated they would favour such a plan.

I’m sure they do. Clinging to a failed business model.

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Fund newspapers from a broadband levy!

September 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Leigh in The Guardian writes:

Consumers won’t pay for online news. But they are of course paying, now and for the foreseeable future, and in huge numbers, for the necessary broadband connections.

A small levy on UK broadband providers – no more than £2 a month on each subscriber’s bill – could be distributed to news providers in proportion to their UK online readership. This would solve the financial problems of quality newspapers, whose readers are not disappearing, but simply migrating online.

There are almost 20m UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5m mobile internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy.

A £2 levy on top – collected easily from the small number of UK service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk etc) who would add it on to consumers’ bills – would raise more than £500m annually. It could be collected by a freestanding agency, on the lines of the BBC licence fee, and redistributed automatically to “news providers” according to their share of UK online readership.

Appalling.

Why stop at forcing all Internet newspapers to fund newspapers. Let’s also add $10 per Internet connection and give it to Hollywood. And $5 per Internet connection and give to book sellers. And so on.

Now you may think such madness will never happen in NZ. Well I need to remind people that at just the last election Labour’s policy was:

investigate the viability of a small copyright levy on Internet access, which would develop the digital platform for accessing Kiwi content mentioned above. Funds raised could go to content creators through an arms length collecting and distribution arrangement

Let’s be clear what people mean when they talk of an Internet access levy. As almost all of the population develops Internet access, such levies are effectively a tax. So the Guardian writer is effectively saying taxpayers should have to fund newspapers, and Labour here was saying taxpayers should have to fund content creators!

I say no to Internet taxes!

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Russia and the Internet

July 12th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

The Russian version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia closed its site on Tuesday in a one-day protest against what it said were plans by President Vladimir Putin to create his own version of the “Great Chinese Firewall” to block dissent on the Internet.

Supporters of amendments to Russia’s information law, which were proposed by the ruling United Russia party and will be discussed in parliament on Wednesday, say changes are needed to protect children from harmful sites.

But leaders of anti-Putin protests say the new law could shut down websites in Russia such as Facebook and Twitter without a court order and is meant to stop their opposition movement, which is organised via social networking sites.

“These amendments may become a basis for real censorship on the Internet – forming a list of forbidden sites and IP addresses,” Russian Wikipedia said in a statement.

“The following provisions and wording undertaken for discussion would lead to the creation of a Russian equivalent of the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’ … in which access to Wikipedia could soon be closed across the entire country.”

This is the same Russia that wants the ITU to be given regulatory authority over the Internet (see previous post and link to petition).

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A petition to protect the Internet

July 12th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A group of like minded individuals and groups have launched a petition calling on the New Zealand Government to vote against extending the regulatory authority of the International Telecommunications Union to the Internet.

The petition is here, and it takes less than a minute to sign.

Vote against the ITU having regulatory authority over the Internet Petition | GoPetition

The background to the petition is:

Right from inception, the Internet has had no central ruling authority. But this December, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet. 

Countries such as Russia which are advocating the ITU have regulatory authority over the Internet have advocated restrictions over the Internet “where it is used to interfere in the internal affairs of a state”. This represents a dramatic threat to the openness of the Internet, where countries could regulate content not just within their own borders, but over the entire Internet.

Geographically isolated nations such as New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations have a significant economic and social interest in an open and well functioning internet. Accordingly, such changes to the ITU may harm our social and economic well being more than other nations.

The ITU has been a closed organisation for nearly 150 years – they represent the antithesis of the Internet community’s open and inclusive approach. Civil society, private sector, technical experts, and Internet users will only have limited input in the process. This would be a significant departure from the open, participatory, multistakeholder model that has made the internet a successful driver of social and economic growth.

If you support the continuing evolution of the multistakeholder internet, you are invited to read and sign this statement of principles.

We are calling on the NZ Government to specifically:

We request the New Zealand Government to vote against any amendments to the International Telecommunications Regulations, to be considered at the World Conference on International telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) which would give the ITU regulatory authority over the Internet, as it is not a truly open and transparent multistakeholder institution, but ultimately a body controlled by Governments.

We also request the New Zealand Government to take a pro-active stance in advocating to other states the benefits of retaining the current open and transparent multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet and to invest in proactive representation and promotion of the Internet as a vital, global platform for access to information and communication, and an enabler of economic and social opportunity.

Again, feel free to sign and promote the petition within your networks. This is an important issue.

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Keep the Internet open

May 29th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

An op-ed in the NY Times by father of the Internet Vint Cerf:

The Internet stands at a crossroads. Built from the bottom up, powered by the people, it has become a powerful economic engine and a positive social force. But its success has generated a worrying backlash. Around the world, repressive regimes are putting in place or proposing measures that restrict free expression and affect fundamental rights. The number of governments that censor Internet content has grown to 40 today from about four in 2002. And this number is still growing, threatening to take away the Internet as you and I have known it.

It is no longer only China and Iran.

Some of these steps are in reaction to the various harms that can be and are being propagated through the network. Like almost every major infrastructure, the Internet can be abused and its users harmed. We must, however, take great care that the cure for these ills does not do more harm than good. The benefits of the open and accessible Internet are nearly incalculable and their loss would wreak significant social and economic damage.

Not all censorship of the Internet is done for bad intentions. UK PM David Cameron said he wanted the ability to turn off Twitter as it may have been used by criminals during the London rioting. Now that may be with good intentions, but then Iran would be turning it off during the pro-democracy protests.

Against this background, a new front in the battle for the Internet is opening at the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations organization that counts 193 countries as its members. It is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet at a summit scheduled for December in Dubai.

This should be of great concern to everyone. The reason the Internet has had the success it has had, is because it grew under the open processes of the IETF and IAB, not the bureaucratic monstrosity known as the ITU.

Such a move holds potentially profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users.

Quite simply, it must not be allowed to happen.

Each of the 193 members gets a vote, no matter its record on fundamental rights — and a simple majority suffices to effect change. 

Total up all the countries that are not true democracies, and you get close to a majority.

Last June, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated the goal of Russia and its allies as “establishing international control over the Internet” through the I.T.U. And in September 2011, China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan submitted a proposal for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” to the U.N. General Assembly, with the goal of establishing government-led “international norms and rules standardizing the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.”

China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – what could go wrong.

Several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the Web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations.

Governments could use the domain name system to force compliance with their censorship desires.

The decisions taken in Dubai in December have the potential to put government handcuffs on the Net. To prevent that — and keep the Internet open and free for the next generations — we need to prevent a fundamental shift in how the Internet is governed.

I hope the NZ Government takes this issue seriously and makes sure we advocate as strongly as we can that the ITU should have no role in Internet governance,, beyond its current mandate with telecommunication standards.

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Enemies of the Internet

March 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its list of countries that are enemies of the Internet. I’ve added on the nature of the Government and/or Head of State:

  • Bahrain – monarchy
  • Belarus – presidential republic, president is former communist now statist
  • Burma – presidential republic, pro-military junta
  • China – Marxist-Leninist single-party state (officially)
  • Cuba – republic communist state
  • Iran – Islamic republic
  • North Korea – Juche (Marxist-Leninist) unitary single-party state,
  • Saudi Arabia – Islamic absolute monarchy
  • Syria – Baathist single party state, Arab Socialist Baath Party
  • Turkmenistan – presidential republic, single party state, former communist
  • Uzbekistan – presidential republic, former communist
  • Vietnam – Marxist/Leninist single-party state

My conclusions are that enemies of the Internet tend to be communists,  former communists, Islamists and absolute monarchs.

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The London cyberspace conference

November 10th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There was a cyberspace conference in London recently, organised by the UK Government. The British High Commission organised a panel in NZ to discuss some of the issues for the conference, and I was one of the three panelists.

Another panelist, Stephen Bell, has written an article about the panel. A couple of quotes:

Legislative co-operation across countries is productive in tightly defined categories of offence, said Farrar; he gave the example of child pornography or spam, where there is a common understanding of an online activity that does harm.

But an attempt to combine legislative systems designed within different cultures poses the danger of an unduly restrictive “lowest common denominator” system of regulation and of simplistic “remedies” such as UK prime minister David Cameron’s airing the idea of shutting down Twitter to avert riots of the kind that recently hit British cities. Cameron quickly thought better of that suggestion in the face of public protest.

I quite enjoyed having a little dig at the UK PM, as it was hosted by the UK High Commission :-)

“In theory, it’s illegal for anyone under 14 to be on Facebook,” said Farrar; “but there are whole classes of six-year-olds on it; they just add ten years to their age. Do you educate them on how to use Facebook, or just say ‘they shouldn’t be on there; let’s pretend they’re not’?”

A pragmatic approach is best; perhaps a “Facebook lite for kids” should be set up, he suggested.

It is best to cater for demand, than try to pretend it does not exist.

There is huge opportunity for digitally assisted processes to make citizen interaction with government easier and to further democracy by easing interaction on the formation of laws, said Farrar. “As a small business owner, I love interacting with Inland Revenue – I never thought I’d say that. If there’s a problem nowadays, I don’t spend two days on the phone any more; I use their secure email service.”

Note I’m less enthusiastic over the size of my payments to them :-)

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ITEX

October 27th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

For those who want a break from the election campaign, and are keen on technology in business, ITEX is on on Wednesday 23 November at Sky City. The programme looks superb, but the cost is significant, reflecting that.

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Tune in tomorrow for the ICT debate

October 17th, 2011 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

InternetNZ have arranged a debate between ICT spokespersons for four of the parliamentary political parties.

InternetNZ presents the election debate NetVision 2011, focused on New Zealand’s Digital Future. Major political parties will present and debate their visions across economic, social, cultural, environmental and government perspectives.

NetVision 2011 will be held at Wellington’s City Gallery on Tuesday 18 October from 7-9pm.

The debate will be streamed live on the Internet at www.r2.co.nz/20111018

A panel of Political Party spokespeople are participating in NetVision 2011 including Hon Steven Joyce (National), Clare Curran (Labour), Gareth Hughes (Green) and Peter McCaffrey (ACT). Confirmation from the Māori Party is awaited.

Sean Plunket is to MC the event, and journalists including Rob O’Neill and Sarah Putt will be on hand to quiz the politicians. They will also put questions posted on Twitter using the hashtag #Net11 to the politicians.

If you would like to be in the audience for the debate then email rsvp@internetnz.net.nz .

I’m in Auckland so will not be there in person, but will try and watch it online and follow the chat on Twitter. I encourage all those interested to tune in also, and ask questions that you want answers to.

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Labour’s ICT Policy

October 17th, 2011 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

Whale Oil blogged yesterday a leaked copy of Labour’s ICT policy, which was due for release today. There’s a mixture of good and bad in it. Let’s look with the two big bad issues.

Labour is proposing to levy a special Internet tax on Internet users to fund copyright holders, plus it is effectively proposing that the Government gain the power to regulate the non-broadcast media, allowing it to fine and censor newspapers and maybe even bloggers.

Let’s start with the Internet users tax.

Labour will also investigate the viability of a small copyright levy on Internet access, which would develop the digital platform for accessing Kiwi content mentioned above. Funds raised could go to content creators through an arms length collecting and distribution arrangement.

So vote Labour if you want a tax on Internet users. And like many taxes it might start small but over time it would grow. At first it might fund a content distribution system. Then it might fund projects which close the digital divide. And then it might fund Government websites (as they are done for the benefit of users not Government).

Just as I am against the Government’s DIA filter, because one day it might expand to be a filter against other content, likewise I am against any Internet tax on users.

Not let us look at the plans to control the media. This is not new – Labour looked at the same in their last term of office.

The consultation will also consider the regulatory mechanisms for content that is carried on broadcasting and telecommunications networks. It may be that the functions of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Press Council and the Advertising Standards Authority could be brought together.

Now let us be very clear about this. The BSA is appointed by the Government, and has the power to not just uphold complaints but to fine broadcasters, order statements to be read on air and even to take a broadcaster off the air. The Press Council on the other hand has no powers, except its printed opinions.

Now in a merger (not just a sharing of backend functions), what do you think is more likely to happen under a Labour Government? That the BSA will be replaced by the Press Council or that the Press Council will be replaced by the BSA? But it gets even worse than that – the combined regulator would have power over all content carried on telecommunications networks. So this Government appointed regulator could rule on content on blogs (for example), and if it retains BSA powers even order a blog off the Internet.

The BSA has the powers it has, because the airwaves are deemed the property of the Government, and the BSA so to speak is a condition of leasing them. But newspapers and the Internet are not the property of the Government, do not need Government permission to be used, and the Government should not have content control over them beyond the normal laws of the land.

The only acceptable converage of content regulation is if the self-regulatory model of the Press Council and ASA is extended to broadcasters rather than the BSA model extended to press and the Internet.

So having got past the two big negatives, let’s look through the rest of the policy.

Labour believes a single network regulator for Telecommunications and Broadcasting has merit.

Now on the network side, I agree. I think the two sectors are converging and in terms of competition issues, a single regulator would be sensible.

Labour will investigate creating a Ministry of Communications and IT, based in the Ministry of Economic Development, to bring together all policy involving broadcasting, communications and information technology issues.

A Ministry within a Ministry? So is the CEO of the MCIT responsible to the SSC or to the CEO OF MED?

Labour would appoint a Chief Technical Advisor, who would have responsibility for producing technology roadmaps for New Zealand, for overseeing NZ‟s national digital architecture driving the uptake of ICT across society.

I quite like this proposal, based partly on what Obama did.

Labour will complete the fibre rollout in urban areas within the limit of the $1.35bn of funds available for investment by Crown Fibre Holdings.

Labour at the last election did not commit to fibre to the home. Their total broadband package was $300m compared to $1.5b for National, which would have funded a collection of discrete projects but not a nationwide roll-out to 75% of NZers. It is good they have appreciated the importance of fibre to the home and are committed to carrying on with the spend.

Labour will conduct a public discussion about the objectives and the process for the spectrum auction, and how the proceeds from the auction should be spent in New Zealand, before the auction occurs.

A lot of the document is about reviews and discussions. I thought one could be a bit bolder than that on the spectrum auction. it’s apple pie and motherhood.

Labour will increase funding to Computer Clubhouses for the most vulnerable communities in NZ. Labour will also increase funding to Computers in Homes in order to make more rapid progress in bridging the digital gap. (We have allocated up to $2.7 million a year for the expansion of these two initiatives.)

That’s a nice specific commitment, and they are both very worthwhile projects. Of course we have yet to see how the spending promises will be funded, apart from presumably greater debt. But to be fair the amounts here are fairly modest.

Labour affirms that the fundamental human right to impart and receive information and opinion necessarily includes the ability to access the Internet in order to give practical effect to the right in today‟s world.

Excellent. A very clear statement.

Labour will introduce a bill within 90 days of taking office to remove from the Copyright Act the ability to introduce account suspension for infringing file sharing as a remedy the District Court can impose.

This has been previously released, and welcomed by me. I note suspensions are not available at the moment, and only can be if a future Cabinet decides they are necessary. However it would be a good thing to get the ability removed.

Labour will enact and implement the draft Patent Bill currently before Parliament that excludes computer software.

This is also National’s position, and Government policy.

Labour will issue a binding instruction to government agencies to implement a whole of government approach to open software.

Some specifics of this instruction would be:

  • Require that when the government pays for software to be created, it will be owned by the government, and will be shared within government and with the public using an open source license.
  • Require all software developed under Crown Copyright to be made available to the public on an open source license.

They look good ideas to me.

Labour will set an aspirational target of 2/3 of government agencies using some form of open source software for a reasonable proportion of their software needs by 2015.

I’m a fan of open source software, and its potential. I think the great value it brings is not the cost savings but the community of developers who can innovate with it. However the aspirational target seems rather arbitrary and populaist to me. Why 2/3rds? Why not 80% or 90% or 100%? And what does a reasonable proportion mean? If an agency uses Firefox browsers will that count?

I’m all for reducing the barriers and inertia in parts of Government to make sure open source software gets considered on its merits. But I think there are dangers in central Government setting an arbitrary target. It is not a case of all open source software is good and all proprietary software is bad. One has to weigh up the suitability for the tasks needed.

Labour will establish a Computer Emergency Response Team for New Zealand.

Most countries have one of these. I’m not sure whether this would be part of the National Cyber Security Centre just opened by the Government, or on top of that.

Overall there are some good aspects to Labour’s policy, and it reflects the work Clare Curran has put in getting to grips with the sector. But I’d be a lot lot happier with it if they firmly ruled out any further content regulation of the media and the Internet, and also ditched their policy to look at having a special Internet users tax to fund copyright holders interests.

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Women and Gadgets

October 20th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Men are more likely to rate technology as a necessity of life than women, a recent survey suggests.

I read this, and my first thought was no that is not right. Sure e-mail and web is important, but I’d rather go without them than without women.

But then I realised that what they meant should be expressed as:

Men are more likely than women to rate technology as a necessity of life, a recent survey suggests.

The importance of order in a sentence!

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Free wifi for Wellington

September 14th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Wellington will have free access to high-speed wireless internet on the waterfront from December.

And the city council hopes to make free wi-fi a permanent fixture in the central business district in time for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

From December, anyone with an internet-capable smart phone, iPad or laptop computer will be able to connect free of charge between Queens Wharf and Te Papa within range of a waterfront server in the NZX building.

The initiative is the brainchild of Trade Me and is being paid for by the online auction company, in association with the council.

Great.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said moves were already under way to expand the free wi-fi initiative to the city centre – subject to costs associated with the project. If successful, Wellington would be among the world’s first cities to offer residents and visitors free downtown wi-fi access.

The council was calling for expressions of interest to provide the service permanently around the Golden Mile.

A council graphic shows the proposed coverage stretches from Westpac Stadium to the Embassy end of Courtenay Place.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said the initiative would make it easier for visitors to make the most of the city and tell others about it.

“Being able to access free wi-fi on the waterfront will mean our visitors can not only freely access information about where to go and what to do in the city, they can post photos of the picturesque harbour, public art and other attractions to their friends, families and digital networks throughout the world.”

I would not under-estimate how much extra tourism one could attract by promoting Wellington as a free wi-fi city. A huge number of travellers now travel with a laptop or 3G phone even.

The cost of wireless in hotels is outrageous at $30 or so a day.

Cafenet (run by Citylink) used to be superb value. I recall in the 1990s how great it was to get 80 MB of data for just $20. Sadly Cafenet are still charging the same rice in 2010, despite the costs of bandwith being less than 1/10th what they were in the 1990s. They have gone from cheapest to most expensive.

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Cool

July 28th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

BMW New Zealand customers will soon be able to surf the internet using the vehicle’s dashboard-mounted information display screen.

The company has announced that customers with a suitable screen, iDrive system and internet-capable mobile phone will be able to buy wireless internet functionality.

The system will allow BMW customers to access the internet and email, although drivers will only be able to view the web and email pages when the vehicle is stationary.

I like it. One of those BMWs will do nicely for my birthday present thank you very much.

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Open Government 2010 Conference

June 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Some readers may be interested in the Open Government 2010 (un) conference next week – on Monday 28 June in Wellington.

It’s an un-conference, which means the agenda is fluid – set by participants. It is free to attend, but you need to register in advance.

Steven Joyce will be doing an opening address, and other speakers or panelists include:

  • Colin MacDonald, LINZ CEO
  • Mirian Lips, e-Government Professor, VUW
  • Zachary Tumin, Associate Director for Technology & Governance:The Ash Institute at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Rodrigo Mizuno, Worldwide e-Government Managing Director:Microsoft Corporation
  • Clare Curran, Labour IT/Comms Spokesperson
  • Henk Verhoeven, Solution Architect:Intergen

If you have a passion for using technology to build a more open government, then consider registering to come along. Here’s one proposal I’d love a political party to adopt:

www.oia.govt.nz

The Government every day is releasing mounds of information under the OIA – but only to the person who thought to request it. I’d love to see a pdf of every OIA response put onto a central website – www.oia.govt.nz, so anyone can see the information released and use it. A good taxonomy and search engine for the site and it will be a gold mine.

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Four techie things

April 5th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar
  1. Now have a USB powered 320 GB external HD. Cost only $100 or so and it is light enough to keep with the laptop. Means I can be backing up easily daily. The old external HD was a big clunker and unreliable.
  2. Finally got my laptop bluetoothing with my Blackberry. Can now sychronise it without needing the cord. Yay.
  3. As it was on sale for $25, finally got a webcam. Will be good for skypeing with friends overseas. My curiousity got the better of me and tried chatroulette briefly. I got to see more male genitalia than even Annabel Chong could handle. Don’t think I will return!
  4. Am getting moderately excited about the iPad. While I generally prefer to read books the old fashioned way, I can see how great it will be for students who can dump all their textbooks into it. Also would be great for lengthy trips – no more having to lug a dozen books in my suitcase.
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2009 World Internet Project

March 17th, 2010 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

The NZ part of the World Internet Project has released their 2009 survey results. Some interesting stats:

  • 83% of NZers are Internet users, 6% are ex suers and 11% have never used it.
  • 83% of home users are on broadband
  • 93% of users use the Internet at home, 68% at work, 24% at school or uni
  • 6% of Internet users connect through their mobile phone for more than an hour a week
  • Half of all users have been online for less than ten years.
  • Around half the households have more than one computer connected to the Internet
  • Market share is 52% Xtra, 16% Telstra-Clear, 9% Slingshot, 9% Vodahug,
  • 60% satisfied with Internet speeds, 23% are not
  • 65% rate the Internet as an important source of information, over TV 55%, newspapers 53%, radio 44% and libraries 45%
  • More respondents say they use the Internet to visit religious and spiritual sites than say they visit sexual sites. I think respondents may be fibbing about that one, based on known traffic stats!
  • 19% of users read blogs regularly and almost 40% have read a blog sometimes.
  • 48% of users belong to a social networking site
  • Of social networkers, the most frequently used network is Facebook on 75%, and 18% Bebo.
  • 25% of users have made friends online and 56% of them have gone on to meet them
  • 45% support government funding of universal Internet access, and 31% oppose.
  • Asian NZers have highest user rate, with 97% using the Internet
  • 88% of Internet users in main cites are on broadband, and in rural NZ it is 67%
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A stupid idea

March 1st, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he will look into the idea of appointing an online ombudsman after Facebook tribute pages were defaced with pornography and offensive comments.

Pages set up to honour slain Queensland children Trinity Bates and Elliott Fletcher have been defaced in the past fortnight.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has proposed the appointment of an online ombudsman to deal with such incidents.

“Specifically on Nick’s idea, let’s look at it,” Rudd told the Seven Network.

“The role of cyber crime and internet bullying on children is frankly frightening and we need to be deploying all practical measures.”

God knows what they think an online ombudsman will do, but I’d rather not find out.

The Facebook pages will have an owner who set them up. That owner has the ability to remove any offensive comments made on the tribute pages. No need for the state to intervene.

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