… what broadband technologies really need to be about – improving the quality of life of real people
As New Zealand awaits the political determination of two key telecommunications issues this week, the 2013 Broadband World Forum has just concluded in Amsterdam.

The difference in the attitudes, actions and forward thinking that the Europeans displayed compared to our own government’s, was pronounced.

In New Zealand, parts of the telecommunications industry are on hold, awaiting decisions that will have major impacts on the beneficial development of our broadband society.

First is the auctioning of the 700 MHz ‘Digital Dividend’ spectrum.  If the mobile telcos behave rationally, then the auction will be a done deal by the time this article is in print on Thursday.  But instead of waiting for the telcos to show either rationality or the alternative of anti-competitive behaviours, the government could have simply allocated the spectrum to the three mobile operators at the reserve price.  Which would have saved around 12 months and millions of dollars.

We are also awaiting the Commerce Commission’s release of their initial pricing determination for copper-based broadband services wholesaled by Chorus.  If you believe Amy Adams and John Key, at risk is the financial security of Chorus which therefore, requires users to pay more for their broadband connection.  It matters little to them that the integrity of a regulatory body is at risk.

BbandForum2013AmsterdamThe tone at last week’s Broadband World Forum was much more open, positive and future-focused.

A spokesperson from Alcatel-Lucent argued that the industry “… has in hand a set of technologies and services that … enable us to revolutionise how we interact with each other, and content, media, and services …”

In describing those technologies and services, which are supplied to New Zealand telcos, he understates the coming societal revolution.

That view is summed up in a quote from a representative of a leading Dutch service provider who said “… futurologists have always said that it’s hard to describe the future and that we do so using terms that we already know. So just as the first projectors were known as magic lanterns, and the first cars were known as horseless carriages, the term smartphone is going to be equally dated terminology in the future.”  Meaning that we will not foresee the breadth and depth of the changes coming.

Instead of focusing on preparing for the challenges of a broadband society, our government focus on assuring returns on investment to corporates.

Analysis done by Ericsson, showed that network performance was rated more highly than value – implying that consumers will pay more for a better performing network.  Yet our government are focused on network subsidies instead of ensuring competition at the service level.

A city councillor from Dublin described his city’s ‘Digital master plan’, which includes installing fibre to every home by 2016.  Yet our government have no apparent intention of developing a digital plan.

The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, noted that “…while the EU target of achieving 100 per cent basic internet access for every European citizen had been achieved, there was still a long way to go to reach the 2020 target of 30Mbps.”  Yet our government completely ignore the needs of the remote rural 3% and draws a line of economics that defines the rural/urban digital divide.

The CEO of Amsterdam smart city operator Alliander summarised what broadband technologies really need to be about – improving the quality of life of real people.

Our government seem to be more about ensuring the economic viability of companies than the well-being of people.