Call to unlock broadband content
Technology entrepreneur Rod Drury is asking government to unlock pools of online content not currently available to Kiwis to help drive the adoption of ultrafast broadband and protect New Zealand's $1.3 billion of public investment in fibre networks.
Drury said adoption of fibre in the home is important as he believes that is where the next generation of business innovation will come from, but without access to compelling content the new network could be orphaned with low levels of domestic uptake.
Drury told a Cisco roadshow on the business uses of UFB that a Sky subcription and broadband plan cost about the same, but many households will not be able to afford both. Overseas, fast fibre networks are used to deliver "triple play" services – phone, internet and content access on one platform – but that can't happen here without access to international content on services such as iTunes, BBC's iPlayer and US online movie service NetFlix.
Drury said it is unlikely this government would act to regulate Sky as is done in the UK to make parts of its content available online, so he has suggested the Ministry of Economic Development undertakes a study to understand the blockages that are keeping overseas content providers out of New Zealand.
Once this is done, they should then approach those providers to "make it happen".
"The first bit of work is to understand what the rights are and what are the blockers," he said.
Drury said such content is available in Singapore and even Australia has better access than New Zealand consumers.
He has also suggested that Crown Fibre Holdings, the body overseeing the broadband rollout for the Crown, should have its mandate expanded to allow it to work with the private sector on the "demand side", ensuring access to content to generate demand over the network.
Meanwhile,the Commerce Commission is undertaking a "non-regulatory" study into the demand side of the broadband market and is planning a public conference, "The Future with High Speed Broadband", in February 2012 to identify issues that might affect adoption.
Terms of reference for the study cover a range of possible impediments including home wiring, network neutrality, peering, IP interconnection, data caps as well as content.
The commission aims to assess whether any of these could amount to a barrier to entry or expansion into telecommunications markets and plans to identify ways to monitor the market and identify problems if they arise.
Sky TV spokeswoman Kirsty Way said there should be few if any blockages for a service such as NetFlix to set up here if it wanted to as online movie licensing is usually not granted on an exclusive basis.
Way said while licensing for TV programmes could be exclusive, Sky does not "hoard" content and makes it available online through its iSky service. Way said Sky boxes now have an ethernet port and this could be used for future services to allow more access to the likes of the company's back catalogue.
Drury told conference attendees that setting up his own Apple TV account had opened his eyes to "how dumb the broadcast model is".
The next big development could be television delivered as applications over the internet, he predicted. That could open the possibility of closing the expensive broadcast network entirely, allowing extra funds to be deployed into the local content industry and that content to then be marketed globally rather than just locally.
"If you were drawing from a blank sheet, that's where you'd end up," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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