What do we mean by "Telecommunications"

Yesterday we made a public release of a paper in which we outlined the key high level issues we thought should be discussed and debated as part of the current review of the Telecommunications Act - you can read it here
We’re very clear that our focus is on the outcomes for our members, and to help businesses make the most of the new digitally connected economy. And it’s that phrase “digitally connected” that has got me thinking and talking with TUANZ members over the last few months about how that lines up with the word “telecommunications” in the name of our organisation. 
The word itself is basically a 1930’s French word - being a combination of tele meaning ‘at a distance’ and communicationAccording to Google, the use of the word peaked in the last 90’s and has slowly dropped off since then. And you can probably understand that - what comes to mind when you think of the telecommunications? If you’re of my generation you probably first think of telephones and maybe even the old rotary dial phones! If you’re younger you may not even know what a rotary dial is. In fact you probably haven't even really thought about how we ended up with the telecommunication services we have today - you just are used to being able to communicate through various digital technologies. And so why would you be interested in an organisation that is called the Telecommunications Users Association?
Well... I've been talking to people about that too. I've come to the conclusion that the word does encapsulate so much more than just telephones, circuits or infrastructure. It very much describes the modern digital connected world.  Many online businesses didn't exist 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. They use the power of the internet to reach out and communicate over distance to people who visit the business' website and (hopefully) transact while there. These businesses wouldn't exist if it wasn't for telecommunications. TUANZ has a growing number of young entrepreneurs who are getting involved because they know that they couldn't do what they do if it wasn't for an organisation like ours, working to help businesses make the most of the opportunities presented by today’s digital economy.
In truth today's digital environment is just the latest development in telecommunications - we’ve just added the internet to the ways we communicate over distance. For example, this was written using Google Docs, blogged using Squarespace, an online, browser based website builder that relies on being connected to the internet to work.   You might receive a message via SMS, or by an app on your smartphone while reading this, and you probably work in a business that in some way uses the internet to transact or communicate. All of these are examples of the use of telecommunications - so maybe it’s not quite time to retire the word yet.

Media Release: TUANZ releases Issues Paper for Telco Review

MEDIA RELEASE : 10th August 2015


TUANZ (The Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand) has today published on its website a paper which lists the issues it suggests should be covered in the upcoming review of the Telecommunications Act by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).  “We provided this list to MBIE earlier this year and we have released it today in line with our principles of positive leadership and providing credible contributions to debate around the issues” said the CEO of TUANZ, Craig Young.  

“Our focus is on helping New Zealand make the most of the digitally connected world and so we are more interested in the outcomes of any review for users rather than specific details.  To help with this we have suggested a high level list of specific issues we believe are critical to the continued development of our connected economy” Mr Young said.  

Mr Young says that TUANZ is supportive of the current market structure and are keen to see it allow such things as structural separation to fully bed in. TUANZ supports incremental change as required to this structure in the period covered by the review which is the post 2020 environment. This period will be featured as one where fibre services would be the predominant new fixed-connection type given the Government UFB project would be completed and the Crown Fibre contracted fibre pricing would cease to apply. Wireless technology is also likely to be advanced enough to offer reasonable competition to fixed services.

The summary list of issues that TUANZ consider are important to be debated is as follows:

  1. We should have an aim of ensuring we continue to have a world leading communications network supporting our economic growth and social development

  2. Our services must be competitive with like nations given we are increasingly competing in a global market

  3. Funding of user groups to enable credible input should be considered similar to the Australian model in regards to Government funding of ACANN (Australian Communications Consumer Action Network)

  4. The need for a TSO and the services included post 2020 should be debated. Questions of its applicability, its application to which market participants, and whether it should include any minimum standards of service performance should be included in the review.

  5. Urban and Rural planners need to consider Telecommunications as a basic infrastructure along with roads and water. We strongly suggest that it should be considered that the provision of these services be a mandatory planning requirement.

  6. Fair and sustainable competition at the service level should be the focus to encourage continued investment in infrastructure. One of the key planks of any regulatory framework must be to balance the requirement to deliver fair competition for end users, but also to ensure the investment engine is sustained.

  7. The continued convergence of service delivery over telecommunications infrastructure should lead to a review of the alignment of regulation and regulator of the sectors. The aim should be to ensure end-customers see increased choice and competition on how they receive content.

  8. The question of de-commissioning the urban copper networks should be a discussion so that post 2020 we encourage continued uptake of the new connectivity options, but also to reduce the cost overhead on the network owners.

  9. The Product disclosure regime needs to be tightened up.  Whilst the TCF has made valuable progress in this regard, we believe the continued development of a standardised disclosure regime would assist users to make informed choices.

  10. Independent dispute resolution should be mandated or at least heavily encouraged. The current dispute resolution service is a voluntary process and works reasonably well within its remit but TUANZ is of the view that the possibility of making membership of some such scheme compulsory should be considered as part of gaining the right to operate as an RSP.

Two other issues are included in the paper but are subject already to proposals included around the extension of the Nation Environmental Standards and the Land Access for Telecommunications discussion paper released by MBIE.

Mr Young said “The issues raised are indicative of our early thoughts on the items that should be canvassed through the review process but are unlikely to be exhaustive. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Government and the ICT industry on this and more generally on ensuring NZ businesses are able to make the most of the digitally connected economy."

The full paper can be found here: http://tuanz.org.nz/representation/ 


GUEST BLOG* : Introducing the Data Counsel

In September, Lillian Grace, founder and CEO of Figure.NZ will be the speaker at the TUANZ After5 series.  Figure.NZ is growing and has just appointed Aaron Schiff to the role as Data Counsel.  Below is a blog post he wrote to explain what that means.

“I’m really excited to be appointed as Data Counsel at Figure.NZ (formerly Wiki New Zealand), and I could be your Data Counsel too. What’s a Data Counsel? I’ll explain, but first…

Figure.NZ is on a mission to democratise data by making it usable by everyone. There’s tons of fascinating public data out there, but for the most part it’s trapped in obstinate spreadsheets and clunky web tools. Figure.NZ has built some really cool software called Grace that liberates this data and turns it into friendly charts and tables, and also serves it up via an API.

This is really important because data only creates value when it is used. Before Figure.NZ, using New Zealand’s public data required a lot of specialised skills and knowledge. Now all you need is curiosity. This means that vastly more people will be able to use data and generate value from it.

So what is a Data Counsel? Lillian Grace, Figure.NZ’s Founder and CEO, created this term for me. It is inspired by legal counsel, who advise, solve problems, and dispense general wisdom. This is essentially what I’ll be doing for Figure.NZ, its clients and its users but obviously in relation to data instead of law.

As well as data publishing, Figure.NZ often gets asked by companies, government, individuals, industry groups, and others for advice on how to think about or use data, and sometimes this is internal or private data that falls outside Figure.NZ’s main focus. Sometimes the guidance can be easily and freely given, sometimes it turns into a project that sees more data published on Figure.NZ, and sometimes it requires really specialised work. I’ll be helping with all of these things.

I’m super excited and grateful to be able to help such a talented group of people who are doing important and valuable work.  We have some great things coming soon, so stay tuned!"

*Guest Blogs do not necessarily reflect TUANZ official position but are posted to encourage debate and discussion on pertinent issues.

Media Release: TUANZ today submits response to proposed UFB and RBI extensions

TUANZ Media Release - 3rd July

TUANZ has today submitted a response to the Government on the proposed UFB2, RBI2 and Mobile Blackspots programme.  Over many years TUANZ has consistently stated that that the availability of good quality high speed connectivity in all parts of New Zealand is a critical economic enabler for the future of the NZ economy.

“We have been providing leadership in the need for improved access for rural users since the first Rural Connectivity Symposium held in 2005 which made the Symposium held last month the 10th anniversary event.” said the CEO of TUANZ, Craig Young.  

As part of this years symposium there were a number of general themes of concerns from rural users ranging from perceived lack of quality of connectivity, affordability issues through to a general lack of awareness of what services were currently available.  “The overriding theme though was that there was no ‘one size fits all’ solution and that the Government should be mindful of regional solutions in this round.” said Mr Young.  “And while it's outside the current RBI process, We think we as a nation need an ambitious vision that is couched in terms of outcomes and experience”

TUANZ is committing to continuing to lead in pursuing this ambitious vision:

New Zealand should have the vision of meeting the aspiration that the rural connectivity experience is the same as the urban connectivity experience.

TUANZ believes this would provide truly transformative change.  It would require political will and effort and education is key:

  1. New Zealand needs to accept that connectivity is now seen as a right not a want

  2. New Zealand should aim for equity of access across any perceived rural/urban divide

  3. New Zealand should develop a long-term, cross party strategy for rural connectivity.

The document itself also includes a section on the criteria and priority that participants at the symposium suggested should be applied to and preferred solution under the current ROI process which are around the idea of being “fit for purpose”.

We have placed a copy of our reponse on our website here: http://tuanz.org.nz/representation/  .