TUANZ and RHAANZ welcome RBI2 announcements

16th March 2015

MEDIA RELEASE - TUANZ and RHAANZ

TUANZ and RHAANZ welcome RBI2 announcements

The announcements on the 12th March by the Hon Amy Adams, Minister for Communications in regards to the RBI2 and Mobile Blackspots programmes have been welcomed by the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand and the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand.  “We support the continued investment in rural infrastructure to ensure that this vitally important part of the New Zealand economy and society is not left behind” said Craig Young, CEO of TUANZ.

To ensure that the voices of rural users of telecommunications services are heard in the process, TUANZ and RHAANZ have entered into an agreement to collaborate on the issue of rural connectivity.  “Our organisation represents most of the rural stakeholder groups with our focus on health and we welcome the expertise that TUANZ can bring to our advocacy around the importance of connectivity for the improvement of rural health outcomes.” said Michelle Thompson, CE of RHAANZ.

As a first step, the two organisations are planning to host a Rural Connectivity Symposium in Wellington in late May.  The aim of this day will be to develop a joint submission to the RBI2 and Mobile Blackspot requests for information. Ms Thompson says “The ability to gather together a large number of rural stakeholders and to provide a response to the Government's request is a great opportunity for us to provide a strong unified response which reflects the voices of rural users of telecommunications services”




Wiki New Zealand launches gorgeous new website

Earlier this year I wrote about the website Wiki NZ and how its founder and chief Lillian Grace (@GracefulLillian) along with her team was working to make New Zealand's publicly available data accessible to everyone.  As part of our general aim of talking about how we can use these great new broadband networks we suggested their website was a good place to start - well, now its a GREAT place to start.

Since my last post, they have been beavering away on the backend tech to deliver a great looking new website bringing that data together in one place and displaying it in simple graphs. Have a look here WIKINZ.  But they're not stopping there - they are working on features and new levels of interactivity and collaboration so that more of us can use and view the data in ways that are useful to us.

So head over there and see what you can find - and also take the time to hear from Lillian introducing the site.


Unfair Contract Terms - are you ready?

 

This week the Commerce Commission published its final Unfair Contract Terms Guidelines and its approach to enforcing the new unfair contract terms law when it takes effect next month.  This relates to clauses in standard form consumer contracts where the terms have been offered to the consumer on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, and the contracts relate to goods and services that are usually for personal use. 

Unfair contract terms will be prohibited in all standard form consumer contracts entered into on or after 17 March 2015, and also in those contracts (except insurance contracts) that are renewed or varied on or after that date. 

The unfair contract terms provisions allow the Commission to seek a declaration from a court that a term in a standard form consumer contract is unfair. While only the Commission can apply for a declaration, any person may file a complaint with the Commission on any contract.
Generally speaking the court may declare a term unfair if it is satisfied that the term causes a significant imbalance in the party's rights and obligations and isn't necessary to protect the legitimate interests of one of the parties.

The Commerce Commission guidelines issued this week are intended to help businesses comply with the law.  Businesses have been given 15 months warning to give them time to prepare for them and its now important you note there is no grace period and from the 17th March the Commission will be enforcing the new laws.  In fact they have stated their initial focus will be on industries commonly falling into the categories including telecommunications, rental cars, fitness, airline and online trading.

The Commission issued draft consultation guidelines in July last year and received approximately 30 submissions back. The guidelines have now been finalised and are available on the Commission’s website.  

A fact sheet for consumers that will enable them to identify unfair contract terms is also being developed and will be released shortly.

 

GUEST BLOG : Broadband as part of the bigger Infrastructure picture

This post is a guest blog from Bill Bennett, Freelance Journalist

Broadband rarely gets discussed in the wider context of national infrastructure.

Yet the government-sponsored Ultrafast Broadband project and the Rural Broadband Initiative are just two of a series of major infrastructure projects transforming New Zealand cities.

To engineers there are two types of infrastructure. Vertical infrastructure means buildings while horizontal infrastructure means roads, railways, cycle tracks, water systems and communications networks.

Infrastructure makes cities liveable

Both kinds of infrastructure make places liveable. They underpin economic development.

In December Aecom New Zealand managing director John Bridgman gave me an insight into another way infrastructure investment is important when I interviewed him for the New Zealand Herald.

Bridgman talked about Auckland, but his comments apply just as much to other New Zealand cities.

Auckland ranks ten

He says the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Auckland as number ten when it comes to the world's most liveable cities.

The survey leaves out Wellington and Christchurch because it only applies to the world's 140 largest cities. Even so, the ideas are relevant across the country.

On one level, the EIU liveable city index is just a set of numbers, an accounting exercise. We shouldn't take it too seriously or read too much into the numbers.

That doesn't mean it isn't useful or important.

Liveable means investment

Cities that rank high in the EIU index attract high quality investment. They are magnets to the brightest and most dynamic immigrants. They are places people want to visit and where they are keen to do business.

Getting on the top ten list is an achievement. Staying there is helpful. Bridgman wants us to move up the list.

Building fast broadband networks throughout New Zealand will move us closer to that goal.

To rank cities the EIU looks at 30 measures in categories such as culture and healthcare. Infrastructure is one category.

Not perfect, not far off

Each category is marked out of 100. A perfect city would be 100. The scores are crunched to get a single number. Auckland's score is 95.7. Melbourne is in top place on 97.5.

A 92.9 score for infrastructure drags down Auckland's total. If we can nudge that figure up Auckland would move from the top 10 to the top five.

In turn that would mean more high quality investment, immigrants and business opportunities.

Infrastructure is an interesting category when it comes to determining whether a city is liveable because the people already living in a city can do something about it.

Improving liveability

It's near impossible to improve a city's culture in the short-term. No-one can do much about the geographic setting once a city is founded. All the top cities are stable, safe and offer first class education, so there's little room to move on those areas.

When assessing infrastructure the EIU looks at the quality of their road, public transport and telecommunications networks along with the international links. It also looks at the availability of good quality housing, energy and water.

Anyone familiar with Auckland knows our recent-year report for all those sub-categories is could-do-better.

The good news is that each area is being addressed. The Western Ring Road is not far from completion. Planning is under way for boosting the road network east of the city. There's been a major water system upgrade.

Work to be done

There's still work to be done building more good quality houses. Auckland's electricity grid has been an embarrassment in the past, but things are changing. The next few years should see work begin expanding the rail network through the city. Other public transport projects are underway. They city is getting bike lanes.

And then there's the broadband upgrade. At first sight it seems almost an afterthought.

Running fibre to every home and business in Auckland might add a few tenths of a point to the liveable city index score.

Where Australia lags

That might not seem much. Yet there are four Australian cities — Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide — ahead of Auckland in the EIU list. None of them will have full fibre to the premises networks soon.

Auckland will have its FTTP in place by the end of 2019.

Only 1.8 points separate Auckland from top ranked Melbourne. Auckland is only 0.2 behind Perth and 0.4 behind Sydney.

UFB

Finishing the UFB could push Auckland up two or three spots on the liveable city index. That alone gets us closer to the prize money. It's an option Australia has rejected.

If those EIU numbers seem a little too dull and abstract to make sense, think of athletics. For an Olympic runner trimming two-tenths of a second can be the difference between a gold and a bronze medal.

As already mentioned, it's important not to get too wrapped up in the details of one Liveable City Index. At best its criteria are debatable and there are other indexes that rank Auckland better or worse than the EIU.

Yet we can read the EIU index as a list of the work in front of New Zealand as we build a 21st century economy.

When the rest of the world catches up and builds fibre-to-the-premises networks, fast broadband will be a hygiene factor just like every other form of infrastructure. That is, something citizens expect and take for granted, something that will make them unhappy if it isn't provided.

By then we'll have something else to build to keep us out in front.

You can find this blog and other comments on Bill's website at: www.billbennett.co.nz