Richard Harman writes at Politik:
For Communications Minister, Amy Adams, who has launched a review of the 2001 Telecommunications Act which is relevant to the way the internet is regulated, the very idea of regulation almost seems like trying to wrestle with a jelly.
Not that she seems that philosophically keen on regulation anyway.
The review includes issues surrounding television which she says she does not think it is government’s job to try and figure out how the commercial businesses respond to the rapidly changing market.
Good. The smartest brains around the world are struggling with working out the answer, so to have a Government try and pick winners is a bad idea.
That comment will disappoint many in the TV industry who worry that a country of 4.4 million viewers will simply be rolled over in content terms by the big Hollywood or other international players.
We have NZ on Air, the Film Commission etc to support the local industry. That is preferable to dictating to providers what content they must supply.
It is that enthusiasm for light handed regulation and endorsement of the market which has made something of a rising star within the National Party.
My view is that Amy is doing very well.
On telecommunication regulation overall she says she has to walk a fine line.
“We have to get the balance right between investors seeing a value in spending on new and replacement technologies and services but at the same time not make it so attractive to investors that consumers get done in the pricing — and that’s a very fine balance,” she says.
“The biggest thing missing at the moment is certainty.
“You talk to any investor and it’s not even a matter of what the rules are, it’s knowing what the rules are so they can price it out and work out where they are and I think the biggest issue at the moment for investors in that market is not the pricing level so much as the complete uncertainty as to where it could go.”
There’s a clue here to how she might respond to the submissions that have been made on the Telecommunications Act and is pricing provisions.
“The very one off, individually created, unique in the world approach we have for pricing telecom services is creating some issues and we could look to a number of better understood processes like a utility style building block approach.”
There’s a lot of interest in the concept of treating telco infrastructure providers like other utilities. Instead of having the Commerce Commission determine prices for every regulated service, just have them establish a maximum rate of return as they do for lines companies and airports.
“I’m personally of a view that the internet stays free and open and outside state control,” she says.
“But that is not to say that we can’t have some sort of consistency of approach about things that our respective countries and residents expect us to regulate for like tax, like classifications, like law enforcement.”
But the picture that emerges is that of a Minister determined that telecommunications in New Zealand will have a light handed regulatory regime, but one which fits neatly into the overall globalised telecommunications industry.
Any infrastructure industry will always have a degree of regulation. It is a necessary evil to prevent vertically integrated monopolies destroying competition. But the regulation should be predictable and consistent.