Broadband strategy doc by Labour's Clare Curran accidentally sent to Amy Adams
This morning, a strategy document written by Labour associate information and communications technology (ICT) spokesperson Clare Curran was accidentally sent to ICT Minister Amy Adams' Office, Ms Curran says (though not by her specifically*).
Although it can only be seen as a footnote compared to his woes in other areas, the gaffe is more trouble for Labour leader David Cunliffe, whom among other roles is the party's main ICT spokesperson. Speech notes for Mr Cunliffe were also mistakenly sent to Ms Adams.
"It is a set of ideas. It has no status as Labour policy," Ms Curran emailed media early this afternoon, also forwarding a copy of the document, which is titled "ICT Policy Framework 2014".
NBR speculates the blunder was a "Freudian email" - or the scenario when you send an email to a person you're criticising, rather than the intended recipient.
The document, formatted as a table, contains no detail on how Labour would approach the thorny issue of Chorus' role in the multi-billion Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) rollout (some analysts and investors are nervous about what direction a Labour-Greens government could push the project, or its main contractor). But it does offer sweeping proposals and commentary in other areas.
In very broad terms, the document hints at more regulation, stating: Platform infrastructure competition is wasteful and anti-competitive. It needs to be open access, regulated for maximum competition and run as a single platform monopoly." 2degrees has frequently noted that in many countries, celltowers and other infrastructure are shared between telcos.
Despite the lack of detail on Chorus and the fibre rollout out, the document does chirrup the "Chorus crisis could bring down [the] Govt!" (perhaps a tad ambitious a statement given public apathy and confusion over the "copper tax" issue).
And there could be awkward moments the next time Ms Curran meets 2degrees brass given her statement in the document that "The result [of the 4G auction] is looking like a big long term win for Vodafone and might mark [the] decline and demise of 2Degrees."
The document does include a couple of interesting ideas, including a "Digital Content Levy", which would be levied on "ICT carriers" (presumably phone companies and ISPs). The revenue-based levy is compared to NZ on Air and the Film Commission, and would be used to "for creation and ‘accessible’ distribution of NZ digital content. It looks like it could see the likes of Telecom (soon to launch ShowmeTV) and Vodafone hit by a levy that could be used to fund online local content (Telecom has said it does not plan any local production content on ShowmeTV, which it bills as a "Netflix for New Zealand").
Telecom was not big on the content levy concept when NBR asked the company for comment. "Thee telco/ISP industry already pays $50 million annually as an industry levy [The Telecommunications Development Levy, currently being used to part-fund the $300 million, six-year Rural Broadband Initiative]. Last year, Telecom’s share of this was about $25m," spokesman Andrew Pirie said. "We wouldn’t be keen on other taxes on top of this, given the wafer thin margins that ISPs already operate on."
The document also proposes allowing New Zealanders to access geo-blocked content (for example, overcoming the technical restriction that stops Kiwis accessing Netflix' streaming video and TV content as American's can). Many do this already, with ISPs legitimising this online-equivalent to parallel importing. The Australian government is considering lifting geo-blocks as a way to encourage online content providers, such as Apple's iTunes, to provide more content regionally, and at a more competitive price. The policy would win favour with those who see software companies and broadcasters protecting old fashioned regional distribution monopolies rather than copyright. In technical terms, it's not clear how it could be implemented for a nation as a whole. However, the government could help out Kiwis seeking to beat geoblocks by making it explicitly that the practice (a grey area at present) is legal.
Ms Curran also proposes the KiwiCloud - "A fixed amount of encrypted digital storage provided to every citizen again can be provided to some as a benefit. Must be NZ based." It's an idea that could be seen as progressive and pro-privacy, or a state subsidy for people who're looking to stash music, movies and other files online but don't want to stump up for extra Apple iCloud or Google Drive space. The policy has been discribed as very Kim Dotcom-friendly, given the accused pirate founded the only major enrypted online storage service, Mega (mostly hosted in Europe, but with around 10% of its files housed locally by Telecom's Gen-i unit).
The document also raises the idea of the KiwiCap - or a fixed amount of bandwidth for every citizen, provided to some as a benefit. The amoung of gigabytes would be determined by the Commerce Commission.
The document also calls for a Broadband USO (universal service obligation) for 5Mbit/s broadband, and undefined ICT services and content. The unspecified cost of the Broadband USO would be funded out of general taxation.
The David Cunliffe speech notes accidentally sent to Ms Adams add another possible policy, free tablets or laptops for low decile schools.
On social media, some began debating the merits of the ideas in the documents, but others made sport.
"Good that Curran is already practising open govt," tweeted one internet wag.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce weighed with a hashtag, and a couple of ideas of his own:
Ban autocomplete on email address lines #LabourICTpolicyideas— Steven Joyce (@stevenljoyce) March 4, 2014
Online publishing of trusts' financial statements #LabourICTpolicyideas— Steven Joyce (@stevenljoyce) March 4, 2014
* David Cunliffe has now acknowledged a member of his staff mistakenly sent the email.