Red Alert

Archive for the ‘broadband’ Category

Actually John Key you did invite Huawei into NZ

Posted by on June 5th, 2013

John Key today accused me of deliberately misleading the House by asking this question:

Clare Curran: Does he now feel embarrassed that, having invited  Huawei into New Zealand and virtually offering it contracts on a plate in 2011, he is now being forced to keep it out of the major contract, following the persistent concerns of all our major security partners?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is deliberately attempting to mislead the House. I did not invite Huawei into New Zealand.

Ultimately he was forced to apologise.

When Guyon Espiner interviewed John Key on TVNZ’s Q&A 11 July 2010 he said this:

GUYON Are there specific projects that have been looked at, I mean I’ve seen commentators talk about projects like Transmission Gully in Wellington. I mean is that a realistic thing that the Chinese might come and do something like that?

JOHN They might do, and at the end of the day from New Zealand’s perspective I mean we’re looking for value for money. So let’s take ultrafast broadband, they’ve got a lot of expertise in that area, Huawei is a big player, they’re bigger round the world, they’ve got a huge partnership in the United Kingdom for instance. No one’s saying they would be the final selected partner in New Zealand but they’ve certainly got the capacity if they wanted to, to come in and look at doing something like that. So you know from New Zealand’s point of view the bottom line is, can we get investment, can we get ultimately value for money?

No-one had mentioned Huawei in relation to the UFB until John Key did that interview on his return from China. Subsequently there was a rash of speculation and discussion about the relationship between the National Govt and the giant Chinese tech company.

Despite a recent visit to New Zealand by Huwaei President Mr Ren Zhengfei a few weeks ago who gave his first ever media interview on our soil, it appears the buck may have stopped for Huawei’s involvement in our public infrastructure.

I was told today that within the telco industry it was believed that Huawei had already been given the contract by Chorus and that it was a back flip to hear that Huawei had been dropped. Whatever the real story is, it involves a turnaround for John Key.

I guess the real question is, what took him so long?

You can watch the interchange here:


Breaking news… ComCom does its job

Posted by on May 21st, 2012

It appears that there are some significant barriers  that stand in the way of Kiwis getting access to fast broadband and which could impact on our economic future. Cost and what they will actually get are the two main issues. Lack of competition will affect both.

The Commerce Commission draft report has just been released into the barriers for New Zealanders to want to or be able to connect to ultrafast broadband. The DomPost reports that:

The Commerce Commission says connection costs and the lack of availability of video content – such as might be delivered by better online television services – are the two main factors that could dissuade consumers from connecting to the $3.5 billion ultrafast broadband network.

I haven’t read the report yet. But I hope it makes clear that there are concerning competition issues which could scuttle New Zealand’s highway to the future. Competition issues that have been ignored by the present government and are likely to bite them.

It also appears that rural Kiwis are being left further behind, with their ability to be connected to even basic broadband remaining a major issue, let alone getting access to fast broadband.

Finally there’s some good analysis to establish the facts of what the important issues are for NZ to grapple with.

I will have more to say later today

Here’s the report

Amy Adams scorecard… part 2

Posted by on May 21st, 2012

It’s been almost six months since the election and Amy Adams being appointed Communications and IT Minister following on from Steven Joyce.

Yesterday I posted on Adams’ activities since being made Minister. Opening ultrafast broadband (UFB) cabinets around the country has been a major activity. It hasn’t yet translated into people connecting to broadband. This is likely to become a serious risk for the government next year when the rubber meets the road on just how many people are connected to fibre.

Enthusiastic PR launches are one thing. But when it comes to addressing the serious competition issues which will impact on the uptake of the UFB by consumers, arguably one of the biggest issues in her portfolio, Adams has taken curiously contradictory views.

Back in February, at a Commerce Commission-organised conference , an issues paper on demand for faster broadband, entitled “Content and Willingness to Pay.” said bundled pay TV services had been a key factor in speeding fast broadband uptake overseas.

Much of the conference focussed on the role played by  Sky TV which has made its MySky (and pending TVNZ joint venture) igloo boxes fibre-capable. But, as as has been reported, with its satellite business bringing in fat profits, there’s little motivation for it to provide content-over-fiber – at a price that would get households jumping to upgrade from copper. In the meantime, it was argued by many, Sky’s deals with internet service providers were a barrier to allowing other content providers fair access to the New Zealand consumer.

At that time Adams brushed aside concerns and  poured cold water on the prospect of regulation mimicking her predecessor Steven Joyce and saying:

While I will be closely monitoring issues that might limit uptake or the effective implementation of faster broadband, I expect industry to show leadership in resolving such issues.

Where that does not occur, I’m more than prepared to step in, but I’m also aware that regulation can be a blunt tool. It is my view that in most cases, industry-driven solutions are better for industry and customers, and are more enduring. One such example is content.

… I will signal now that I’m cautious about reaching for regulation as a solution at this stage when it is still too early, in my view, to anticipate how the competitive content market will look in a UFB environment.

There have also been calls for a single regulator for broadcasting and telecommunications to deal with issues of this kind, but I’m equally sceptical about the benefits of shaking up the regulatory structure to deal with an issue that has yet to form into a clear shape and which the markets may yet solve. The Prime Minister has used the expression of it being a solution in search of a problem and I share that view.

Last week the Commerce Commission gave the green light for Sky and TVNZ to progress the Igloo joint venture,  which has been described as Sky Light. But it also interestingly announced a surprise investigation into Sky TV’s content partnerships with internet service providers.

Cuirously Adams had this to say on Twitter:

ComCom inquiring into Sky’s control of content market. Always my view that was within their jurisdiction so good to see will be looked at.

I wasn’t the only one to scratch my head over this statement. Not only did it contradict her earlier statements which were that it was no business of the regulator to look into the content market. But she delivered the view on Twitter with no other accompanying statement. Changed her tune?

Tom Pullar Strecker writes in the DomPost about this today. It could be that the government has finally woken up to the fact it has been on the wrong side of this issue. It could be that Adams doesn’t understand the implications of what she said. Seems a bit confused at best.

It’s more likely she’s under instructions from Steven Joyce to change her tune because he sees the writing on the wall for regulatory change.

Amy Adams scorecard… part 1

Posted by on May 20th, 2012

It’s been almost six months since the election and Amy Adams being appointed Communications and IT Minister following on from Steven Joyce.

One of the first things she did in her portfolio was to refuse to release much of the Briefing to the Incoming Minister from her department, MED. The industry, the public and the opposition were refused access to the whole of her proposed actions and workplan for the first six months of this year. I took a complaint to the Ombudsman which, because of their enormous workload, has taken sometime to process.

I am hopeful we’ll soon get to see some of that workplan. In the meantime, here’s an appraisal.

Since 10 February 2012,  Amy Adams has issued 15 releases announcing the ultrafast broadband is coming to this region or that region; there will be exciting new broadband services in rural NZ, etc etc…

However, when I asked the Ministry before the Commerce Select Committee recently  just how many schools had been actually connected to ultrafast broadband, the answer was” around 34″. Amy Adams doesn’t seem to have been up to much except travelling around the country announcing that ultrafast broadband is coming.

When you look a little closer, it’s going to be quite a while before most places see anything change. Her announcements are merely PR exercises to make it appear that Steven Joyce’s great broadband scheme is on track. The big test will be how many people actually connect because they can a) afford it and b) it’s worth their while to make the change due to interesting new content and services.

Many schools I speak to are deeply sceptical because of the cost involved in making the transition which is largely being foisted onto their operating budgets and the resourcing of teachers and students through ICT training and access to digital devices.

In the last six months, Adams has made just three other announcements. One around spectrum, one on Mediaworks and one on the 111 service. It’s a bit underwhelming. So far, she appears to be the Minister for opening UFB cabinets.

Huawei. Australia takes action. New Zealand says no issue here. Why?

Posted by on March 30th, 2012

This morning it has been revealed in the Australia/NZ tech publication Comms Day that:

The Australian Government has begun secret talks with carriers on proposals to enhance the security of Australia’s telecom infrastructure which would, in part, mandate a penalty-backed requirement on operators to secure their networks against external threats and require risk assessments of key infrastructure upgrades, modifications and procurement decisions.

CommsDay also understands that the government is highly concerned by the offshore dissemination of Australian citizens’ private data and calling information for use by customer service centres in locations such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. This could lead to a requirement for all data to be housed onshore. The recent discussions likely explain the timing of the revelation last Saturday that Huawei Technologies would be barred from supplying the National Broadband Network.

In recent weeks, representatives of major Australian operators were called to a confidential roundtable meeting with government officials from the Departments of Attorney-General and Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy to discuss the proposed measures. These include a notification process of infrastructure purchase decisions and upgrade or modifications to networks which may have national security implications. Infrastructure builds would potentially be subject to scrutiny or what is termed “risk assessment” under the arrangements with a key focus on details regarding suppliers. Existing infrastructure may also be subject to the reporting process.

The Prime Minister, the ICT Minister Amy Adams and her predecessor Steven Joyce are directly accountable for the actions and inaction of New Zealand to respond to warnings and advice from our security agencies.

The security and integrity of our telecommunications and new broadband infrastructure is a matter of utmost national importance. Cyber security is the new frontier and all countries take it extremely seriously. Despite the lip service paid to it by our government, it appears they have ignored advice and this may have the potential to undermine and compromise our infrastructure.

There are questions to be answered. John Key and Amy Adams must answer whether they received advice comparable to the advice given to Australia, when they received that advice and what actions they have taken since. Steven Joyce is also accountable in his former role as ICT Minister.

I am not party to the advice. But as the Opposition spokesperson for Communications and IT I am raising what I think are valid questions. Why has our approach to this issue been so markedly different to Australia’s? Surely alarm bells must be ringing in the government. What are they doing about it?

Yesterday I would have asked this question in the House to the Acting Prime Minister had Winston Peters not chosen to withdraw his question given John Key was not present.

Does he agree with The Australian newspaper’s Foreign editor Greg Sheridan who said today that if David Irvine, the head of ASIO, Australia’s intelligence service, and who is a former Australian ambassador to China,  had authorised a judgement to be cautious on Huawei, then it was certainly sound. And if so, did he receive the same advice and why hasn’t he acted on it?

It’s worth reading Greg Sheridan’s piece.

Paul Maley’s piece in The Australian is also worth reading . He revealed yesterday that:

BRITAIN’S intelligence services were forced to erect a costly, resource-intensive auditing structure to ensure Huawei did not steal secrets after the Chinese telco was allowed to take part in a British broadband project.

Given that New Zealand defence analyst Paul Buchanan has made some very strong statements in recent days about the importance of these issues the Prime Minister needs to answer this:

When did he become aware of what defence analyst Paul Buchanan has described as the “collective view of the security community”  in the US, Britain and Australia that Huawei is almost certainly a front for Chinese intelligence services, and  what actions has he taken as a result of hearing this view?

Today, Australian PM Julia Gillard is reported as sticking up for Australia’s national interest. I wonder what ours is doing?

“I’ve stood up for Australia’s interest. I know the opposition is standing up for the interests of a Chinese company,” she said while in Sydney for an announcement on the NBN.

“We’ve made the decision in the national interest. Any suggestions this is in breach of our trade obligations is simply untrue.

“We’ve got a strong, robust relationship with China. We are deeply engaged at every level, we have a strong economic relationship, we have increasing ties at every level — diplomatic ties, multilateral ties, and you will continue to see our relationship with China strengthen and grow.”

Fingers in her ears

Posted by on March 29th, 2012

Is Amy Adams just doing what she’s told or does she have her fingers stuck firmly in her ears?

Perhaps she just genuinely doesn’t want to know the reasons for Australia refusing to allow Huawei to tender for its massive broadband supply contract because that would give her a massive headache and require her to do something about it.

The new ICT Minister  had this to say today:

The Minister responsible for overseeing the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband in New Zealand says it would not be appropriate for her to ask Australian authorities why they banned a Chinese company from working on an Australian project due to security fears, despite that company having won contracts to install broadband infrastructure here.

Read the rest here and watch how she says the same thing over and over again.

Does the Commerce Commission have what it takes?

Posted by on March 27th, 2012

Twelve days ago the Commerce Commission announced an investigation, under Section 47 of the Commerce Act, as to whether the new pay TV platform Igloo, a deal between TVNZ and Sky, breaches merger rules.

It was, on the face of it, a show of independence from our competition watchdog, which states its core purpose as achieving the best possible outcomes in competitive and regulated markets for the long-term benefit of New Zealanders. Not monopolies, or big business, but New Zealanders.

Labour encouraged the Commerce Commission to extend its investigation beyond section 47, which deals only with acquisitions. We believe it should encompass all relevant parts of the Commerce Act, including section 27, as to contracts and arrangements substantially lessening competition.

Particularly relevant is the market power that Sky already has as it also owns Prime, a free to air channel, something many countries do not allow to happen. And it’s not only the possible stranglehold that Sky has on content delivery via the traditional broadcast distribution networks, but also via the  internet. This isn’t under investigation. Yet. Some might argue it should be.

The Commission’s investigation is not public. But it’s significant. The big question is will it use the opportunity to have a good look at the state of competition in the broadcasting (or video content) sector. In particular, whether the New Zealand consumer is being best served by the dominance of one or two large players in how they can receive video content via their TV screens and how that dominance is likely to flow on when we all start to connect our televisions to the internet via ultrafast broadband.

In many other countries consumers are able to command choice of providers of overseas content. In New Zealand we have Sky.

In Australia there is currently fierce debate over the  rules that keep major sports events on free-to-air TV. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is introducing a law to ensure the biggest games are accessible to all viewers. This is an extension to the existing anti-siphoning legislation in Australia. There is no such equivalent here and we are nowhere near even having that discussion.

We take what we’re given and if we complain we are told that there’s plenty of content on line. Consequently some consumers download their favourite shows and movies from the internet and watch on their computers, bypassing the bigger screen. Often illegally, as some shows aren’t available here via legitimate means. Most of our internet service providers now have deals with Sky.

There are two important issues at play. One is the issue of competition and encouraging other players in the market because that can only be good for consumers. The other is a cultural issue. That’s what anti-siphoning laws are really about – ensuring people get access to content that is cultural in nature and about who we are as NZers. That’s invariably sport.

There’s been a bit of discussion in the media in recent weeks about the alleged stanglehold that Sky has on our video content market. Chris Barton wrote in the NZ Herald that “suddenly internet providers all over New Zealand are providing unmetered plans for Sky’s video content. You can download unlimited data – as long as it’s Sky”.

Sarah Putt has written extensively in Computerworld on these issues with this piece and last week with this piece which took aim at the detail of the contracts between Sky and the ISPs.

The big question is whether Sky’s exclusive deals have the effect of preventing other contracts to provide online audiovisual content that compete against Sky. The Igloo deal with TVNZ is a means for the pay TV provider to capture another market at a lower entry price which can potentially be upgraded to a fuller service. Given the convergence of the internet and broadcasting environments this positions TVNZ and Sky to potentially dominate the market in coming years and could prevent other existing and new players providing competition.

The Igloo deal could just be the tip of the iceberg if it means that competitors like Netflix or Hulu can’t enter our market and do deals with internet service providers like Telecom, Vodafone, TelstraClear or Orcon because they’ve been locked out of the market by exclusive clauses in the contracts they have with Sky. Sky denies this.

A couple of year’s ago the dominance of Vodafone and Telecom in our telecommunications mobile phone market was challenged by new entrant 2 Degrees which invested millions, yet found itself squeezed out by the Auckland-centric monopoly of Vodafone and the Southern monopoly of Telecom. A broad alliance of consumer groups including students and farmers forced Commerce Commission intervention.

Labour consistently called for more fair competition in that market. Since then, the competition in the mobile phone market is  more robust, the consumers are getting a better deal and all three players are operating in the market.

Not so in the broadcasting space. We are about to lose TVNZ7, our only public broadcaster. TVNZ has become aggressively commercial and since its recent deals with Sky, has made a conscious decision to back away from calls for greater competition. Some might say they’ve been bought off.

Mediaworks (TV3), which is struggling, but still manages to produce quality content on a shoestring budget, is a voice for greater competition. Along with the ISPs and countless industry commentators. Recently some prestigious overseas commentators expressed surprise, even horror, at the skewed and monopolistic nature of our broadcasting, or content sector.

Last month Carleton University professor Dwayne Winseck told the Commerce Commission’s conference on the demand side of the fast fibre networks in Auckland that New Zealand was viewing its telco market through “rose tinted glasses” and needs to get real about data caps, peering issues and the dominance of Sky TV.

I don’t know about rose tinted glasses. I think it’s more that our head is buried firmly in the sand.

The recent articles in Computerworld including interviews with Sky CEO John Fellet pretty much confirm that the contracts between Sky and some telcos restrict net neutrality and arguably stifle competitors, but the Telecommunications Act might be read as excluding content considerations unless it’s video-on-demand. So the concern is to make sure that different parts of the Commerce Commission don’t expediently assume that the hot potato of audiovisual content markets is the other’s problem to deal with.

How the Commerce Commission treats this issue is important. There’s a lot of pressure from the big guns, particularly Sky, to keep our heads stuck in the sand. It seems the government concurs. The new ICT Minister is following Steven Joyce’s lead (instructions?) by insisting there’s no problem and we should continue to allow the skewed market to have its way.

They should be mindful of the metaphor of the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke.

In the meantime, many New Zealanders, frustrated by the lack of quality and up to date content through legal channels are increasingly turning to downloading via the internet.

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Is Amy Adams’ work programme a state secret?

Posted by on February 2nd, 2012

I’ve been looking forward to taking on Amy Adams, the new Minister of ICT. I’ve been impressed by her no- nonsense approach to things and her obvious intellect.

I was hoping for an opponent on the other side of the House who would grasp that technology had the capacity to transform our economy. I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope that she’d take seriously the importance of the social objectives of providing more access to technology, other than to pay lipservice, which is pretty much what Steven Joyce did.

But I was pretty appalled today to receive the incoming briefing document from the Ministry of Economic Development to the new Minsiter, which sets out all the major policy issues that lie ahead and provides a list of the pending decisions and actions over the next six months.

Great tracts of the former (policy issues) were removed from the document under the Official Information Act.

When it came to the decision and actions required over the next six months, there was a gaping two page  hole in the document.


MED1245438 Page 22 of 34



[Withheld under sections 9(2)(f)(iv) and 9(2)(g)(i) of the Official Information Act 1982]

blank blank blank………

I’ve talked to a few industry people about this today. It’s unprecedented I think. Highly unusual and you’ve got to ask what on earth is so secretive about Minister Adams’ workplan and pending decisions that they all need to be kept secret?

Remember this is taxpayers money that funds Vote Communications. The signs are not good that the taxpayers will get the opportunity to scrutinise how their needs are best being met.

The intro by MED to the briefing reveals that the three big issues are these:

  • The roll-out of the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband initiatives
  • The free-up of 4G wireless frequencies
  • Cross sector ICT initiatives in the public service

What can be so sensitive about these issues that the discussion and debate around decision-making can’t be held in public.

The previous Minister Steven Joyce maintained an arrogant and unresponsive approach to the public, and now it appears that Amy Adams may do the same.

When you make something secret you should have a good reason.  The public must be reassured that decisions being made by this Minister are not favouring commercial interests over the public good.

Hopefully an OIA will shine some sunlight on this.

Labour commits to a digital nation

Posted by on October 17th, 2011

Labour’s Communications and IT policy, announced today (and available here), will invest in local people, business and intellectual capital to drive our economy forward.

Kiwi kids are growing up in a digital world. They need the skills and career pathways available to enable them to excel in this increasingly important arena.

Labour will ensure all Kiwi families can access the internet and high speed broadband no matter what their background.

Some of our greatest innovations can come out of the most deprived areas. Labour will encourage community participation in IT by among other things increasing funding to Computer Clubhouses and Computers in Homes by $2.7 million.

Labour has the commitment and the plans to establish New Zealand as a digital nation. This means making sure New Zealand develops a comprehensive digital infrastructure and ensuring that no-one misses out, so that all of our potential whizz kids of the future can flourish.

Labour has some grave concerns about Government’s urban and rural broadband scheme, and with the amendments to the Telecommunications Act passed in 2011.

National’s broadband network must not be a tool to entrench the divide between the haves and the have nots. Labour will conduct an independent review of the ultrafast broadband rollout, including a full assessment of the true costs of the scheme.

While we commit to working within Crown Fibre Holdings’ current investment limit of $1.35bn for ultrafast broadband, we will allow and encourage the UFB to be extended to other areas of New Zealand.

Labour’s ICT policy also sets out an ambitious forward thinking strategy to draw together the policy and regulatory environments for ICT, telecommunications, broadcasting and the internet realm Labour’s ICT policy is a converged policy with broadcasting. The broadcasting component will be announced separately in the coming weeks.

Many other countries including the United Kingdom,  Malaysia, the EU, the UK, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa have already taken this approach.  Australia and Canada are moving in that direction. As the technologies converge a number of issues arise around the networks that will be needed to carry both content produced inside New Zealand and which comes from outside the country.

Each action Labour proposes is underpinned by the recognition that a growing economy is dependent on building local skills. Labour will:

  • Address the current skills shortage in the ICT sector and wider community by promoting digital careers, matching tertiary courses to IT industry needs and attracting more skilled ICT practitioners to New Zealand
  • Lift the number of IT Industry interns from 200 to 1000 nationwide.
  • Establish a Ministry of Communications and IT, based in the Ministry of Economic Development, to bring together all policy involving broadcasting, communications and information technology issues.
  • Establish an independent network regulator to investigate the impact of monopolies in both the telecommunications and broadcasting marketplaces.
  • Appoint a Chief Technical Advisor, responsible for producing technology roadmaps for New Zealand
  • Review the functions of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Press Council and the Advertising Standards Authority.
  • Investigate a whole of government approach to open source software.
  • Introduce a government ‘App store’ to provide a short circuit for fledgling NZ software developers to get to market.
  • Set an aspirational target of 2/3 of government agencies using some form of open source software for a reasonable proportion of their software needs by 2015.
  • Encourage greater diversity in IT suppliers in the public sector
  • Establish a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for open source software development.
  • Improve New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy.
  • Establish a Computer Emergency Response Team for New Zealand.

Labour’s ICT policy also contains the details of Labour’s policy on copyright, which will remove the clause for internet account suspension for infringing file sharing as a remedy the District Court can impose; and commits to conduct a full review of the Copyright Act, with the aim of introducing a new Copyright Bill within 18 months that updates and extends the framework for digital copyright in New Zealand.

It’s a policy with a lot in it. I hope you’ll read it.

Thinking outside the square #3

Posted by on October 17th, 2011

If New Zealand’s economic future requires a focus on a digital economy, what are the barriers to that taking off?

No doubt there are a few. One of them is who gets access access to technology.

How many people in New  Zealand currently don’t have a computer in their homes? Perhaps more importantly, how many of these people have  pre-school or school-aged children?

And how many of the schools that they go to have good connectivity and are likely to be connected to the ultrafast broadband network in the foreseeable future?

Take a child of 5 starting school on 25 October. No computer at home. Limited connectivity at the school. Could be in South Auckland. Could be Palmerston North. Could be Balclutha.

One or two computers per classroom. In 5 years time, aged 10, her school has only just been connected to the ultrafast broadband network.

Because the school has to look for most of the money within its existing operations budget, it’s still grappling with the increased costs to upgrade wiring, hardware and software. There’s still only a few PCs in each classroom.

Her parents have now bought a computer at home but still can’t afford to connect.

Compare that to the 5 year old on the North Shore who’s parents have iPads, iPhones and iMacs. They use a wireless connection at home. Their suburb was a priority  to get connected to Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB). As was their daughter’s school, which was in the first wave of connectivity. All the children have devices at school. Their child regularly uses the internet for her homework.

This is the digital divide. It’s already here. It must not get bigger. Labour intends to close it.

A matter of privilege

Posted by on September 5th, 2011

At the beginning of August I laid a complaint with the Speaker Lockwood Smith asking him to refer Steven Joyce to the parliamentary Privileges Committee for having deliberately misled (ie lied to) parliament in answering a written question more than two years ago.

The complaint was that he had deliberately misled the House. It’s a very serious matter. I take it seriously. I hope all MPs and Ministers do. You can lose your Ministerial portfolio and even your job for doing so.

The Speaker has since replied to me saying that he has determined that no question of privilege is involved.

He doesn’t have to give reasons.

For an understanding of why I laid the complaint and the seriousness of the issue read here and here. And here.

The letter that Joyce lied about was important because it implied the government held opinions on the  structural separation of Telecom and that they were being communicated to Telecom well before the tender process had begun on the ultrafast broadband project.

Well before Telecom had been named as being the successful bidder for the broadband project. Well before Telecom had announced it would structurally separate if it won the UFB; and well before pre-emptive legislation was brought before parliament on that issue (before the contract was announced).

Sound weird? And suspicious? Well yes it is.

This is a very big government project. A large amount of taxpayers money is involved. Steven Joyce has not been straight with the public throughout the process.

He has a track record of negotiating government contracts in great secrecy and getting the outcomes he wants with little or no transparency for the taxpayers. He fought for two years to keep that letter from the public arena once the DomPost discovered it existed.

I can’t challenge the Speaker’s decision. My concern is that if it’s okay to mislead (lie to) parliament about an issue this important, what else is it okay for this government to lie about? And get away with?

I have lodged a Notice of Motion  with the Clerk of the House to refer the issue to the Privileges Committee which I will attempt to move next Tuesday in the House.

Is this true?

Posted by on August 15th, 2011

The process of awarding the ultrafast broadband contract to Telecom has been shrouded in secrecy and dubious process from day one.

I think there’s pretty general agreement about that. The problem has been working out what actually went on.

A letter recently came to light between Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds and Communications Minister Steven Joyce which indicated pretty strongly that the structural separation of Telecom was being discussed way back two years ago before the contract tenders had been announced.

If so, then it would appear that a plan was put in place and an outcome determined before the tenders were put to the public.

If so, that makes a complete mockery of the tender process and the other tendering parties who would be right to feel very aggrieved.

I’ve been told (by a very strong source) that around that time (2009), the Ministry of Economic Development head in charge of broadband Bruce Parkes, used emissaries to go and talk to the Telecom boss and verbally explain that if Telecom agreed to voluntarily separate, there would be “regulatory relief” (and by implication the ultrafast broadband contract would follow).

One of those emissaries has said that when speaking to Reynolds, he/she was told “you’re not the only one they’ve sent to tell us that”.

I’ve also been told, from within Telecom, that the letter written by Reynolds back to Joyce was deliberate, to put it on the record so to speak.

This smells.

I have a request before the Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith referring Steven Joyce to the privileges committee for denying any letters existed on this issue. The letter I’ve referred to above clearly did exist. He has fought to keep it from the public eye since Octover 2009.

I’m waiting for the Speaker’s response.

Joyce caught red handed

Posted by on August 2nd, 2011

Steven Joyce has been caught red handed and is now attempting to worm his way out of reference to privileges committee.

I hope Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, who is a straight shooter, can see though Joyce’s ploy.

Yesterday I laid a complaint with Lockwood over whether Steven Joyce deliberately misled Parliament by not revealing the existence of a crucial letter from Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds on the ultrafast broadband project. The letter made reference to the possible structural separation of Telecom. He denied seeing any correspondence on the issue.

This morning, two years after that letter was sent and 21 months after he responded in the negative to a written question by me, he issued a corrected reply.

What a coincidence that his corrected response comes just a day after I laid the complaint with the Speaker.

I find it breath-taking that Steven Joyce can show such cynical disregard for accountability and transparency for Parliamentary procedure. He is treating the entire process with contempt. Whether it’s the Labour Opposition’s right to receive a truthful answer to a question, or the parliamentary process to take its course once a complaint has been laid.

For these reasons I am releasing both my letter to the Speaker and Steven Joyce’s corrected answer (see below).

I hope the Speaker holds Steven Joyce to account for his deliberate obfuscation.

Subject: 15840 (2009) Published – Communications and Information Technology – Corrected Reply

Question: What correspondence, if any, has he received or sent, listed by correspondent and date, about possible structural separation of Telecom?

Portfolio: Communications and Information Technology
Minister: Hon Steven Joyce
Date Lodged:23/10/2009

Answer Text: I have not sent any correspondence about the possible structural separation of Telecom. I have received one letter from Telecom dated 6 August 2009 where Telecom indicated they understood the Government had a preference for Telecom to structurally separate. Officials advised Telecom at the time that this was not the case.

Date Received:02/08/2011

Here’s his original response to the same question:

15840 (2009). Clare Curran to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology (23 Oct 2009): What correspondence, if any, has he recieved or sent, listed by correspondent and date, about possible structural separation of Telecom

Hon Steven Joyce (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) replied: I have not received or sent any correspondence about possible structural separation of Telecom

It doesn’t stack up

Posted by on July 28th, 2011

Steven Joyce was reported in this morning’s DomPost as saying he “overlooked” a letter sent to him by Telecom chief Paul Reynolds when telling me that he had not got any correspondence on Telecom’s structural separation.

The letter from Reynolds was sent to Joyce on 6 August 2009. In October 2009 I requested an answer from Joyce on whether he had received or been sent any correspondence on structural separation. His answer was NO.

Joyce then spent a year and a half trying to suppress the release of this letter amongst other things to the DomPost.

The DomPost first discovered there was a letter in around November 2009. Joyce went to great lengths to suppress it. It was referred to the Ombudsman and it’s my understanding that there were dozens of contacts between the Ombudsman’s office, the DomPost and Joyce’s office that went on until the Minister decided to release the letter early this week.

It’s also my understanding that Telecom knew the letter’s significance at the time. I would imagine that Joyce knew the letter’s significance too. He got his officials (allegedly) to contact Reynolds after he received the letter and inform him that he was “incorrect”.

It therefore doesn’t stack up that he “overlooked” this letter when I subsequently wrote to him.

Since the letter has emerged, Joyce has done two things. He’s told the DomPost that Paul Reynolds was “incorrect” in his claim that he understood officials had suggested the Government had a preference for Telecom to voluntarily offer to structurally separate, and called for a meeting to discuss the matter.

And then he’s said he “overlooked” the existence of the letter when I asked him whether he’d received any correspondence on this important issue.

This is despite fighting to keep it secret for a year and a half.

It doesn’t stack up.

I’d like to know what other material has been with-held on discussions between Steven Joyce, John Key and Telecom over structural separation in the last two years and when those meetings were held.

I, and others, have questioned whether the government had a pre-determined position on Telecom undertaking the ultrafast broadband scheme and that structural separation was the price. This was before the contracting process had even begun.

There are other parties to the contracting process who can rightfully be aggrieved should it be revealed this is the case.

Steven Joyce has lied

Posted by on July 27th, 2011

Steven Joyce has lied.

Will it get brushed under the carpet this time and ignored?

I put in a set of written questions to Steven Joyce in late 2009 about his, and his govt’s intentions, re the structural separation of Telecom regarding the ultrafast broadband scheme. In October 2009 he responded.

The questions and answers are here.

This answer is particularly interesting:

15840 (2009). Clare Curran to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology (23 Oct 2009): What correspondence, if any, has he recieved or sent, listed by correspondent and date, about possible structural separation of Telecom

Hon Steven Joyce (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) replied: I have not received or sent any correspondence about possible structural separation of Telecom.

Yet two months earlier, in August 2009, Joyce received a letter from Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds referring to previous meetings with the Minister between himself and Telecom regarding the UFB, referring to Telecom’s potential involvement in the project, referring to constructive discussions and his “understanding that the government has a preference for Telecom to voluntarily offer to structurally separate”

The letter is here

Dr Reynolds sought a further discussion with Steven Joyce on this issue which he described as “extremely significant for us”.

So in August 2009, well before the tender was announced for the UFB, Telecom was raising structural separation with the government, which it understood was the government’s preference.

Meanwhile, Steven Joyce maintained there were no such discussions. He maintained that pretence for two years, right throughout the legislative changes which will preside over the structural separation. He got his spokesperson yesterday to say that Paul Reynolds was incorrect.

Joyce only released the letter this week after consistent pressure from the Dompost. Good on them.

But for how long will he get away with lying? Why are there not more questions being asked?

What else did he cover up? What other discussions were there with telecom about structural separation and how it would work?

The UFB tender process is a fraud and should be investigated.

Lying is not okay by government ministers.

Or is it?

That’s right Don we support UFB but reserve the right to review the contract

Posted by on June 20th, 2011

Silly Don Brash is opposed to broadband especially UFB. His opposition was a key recommendation of his taskforce since wound up for being clueless and overspending it’s budget.

He therefore very stupid for criticising Labour for saying we reserve the right to review and amend the arrangements that flow from Joyce’s flawed arrangements.

We think that allowing Telecom monoploy wholesale powers, a 24%  ROI and an underwrite of any loss to the Comcom needs review. And it will get it. And after that review there may be changes. And they will be legislated. And Telecom knows that. They therefore go into this deal with their eyes open.

Brash is reported as saying:-

A future Labour government could rewrite Telecom’s ultrafast broadband (UFB) contract, without paying compensation, Act leader Don Brash said today.

Mr Mallard , and Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran, both vehemently opposed the Telecommunications Amendment Bill during its committee-stage debate last week – a session most notable for last-minute changes that allowed for the foreign sale of Telecom’s retail business.

During the committee-stage debate on the new UFB legislation, Labour also tabled an amendment that would have increased the fines that Telecom might have to pay for breaching separation or “line of business” requirements in the bill from $10 million to $100 million.

“Anyone entering into an arrangement based on this legislation has got to know that it may not last,” Mr Mallard added.

Is parliamentary debate a farce?

Posted by on June 19th, 2011

I’ve participated in a few parliamentary debates on important legislation in the last two and a half years.

As a new MP , with little prior experience of parliamentary process, it’s taken a while to get my head around the procedural stuff and some of the seemingly odd rules. Standing orders, conventions etc. Some of them are very odd. Outdated even. Others are grounded in sense and democractic principles.

I believe in the way we run our parliament. That a Bill gets put up by the government, goes to a select committee where the public get the right to submit and comment, it gets thoroughly scrutinised and commented on by officials and the members of the committee from all sides of the House. A revised version goes back to parliament, where it goes through several more stages before becoming law.

But I’m becoming more convinced that much of this process is a farce. Under this government. I don’t know enough about previous governments to comment. But I reckon it can’t have been worse than it is today.

Urgency is used frequently and consistently to push through non-urgent bills and to rush through laws that suit the government’s purpose without the public’s ability to comment. Arrogant disregard for good process and the importance of public scrutiny. And arrogant disregard for the role of Opposition.

Last Thursday an example of this has left me feeling that the concept of actual parliamentary debate is all just a farce.

Steven Joyce is a new Minister. He’s been in parliament as long as me. He’s smart. He’s described as the Minister for everything. He’s completely self assured, arrogant and brushes off public criticism on any issues as being irrelevant.

Humility, the ability to listen and take due regard are qualities I value. Steven Joyce does not posssess these.

The biggest piece of legislative change in the telecommunications sector is currently going through our parliament. Last Thursday saw us make progress in the committee stage through about half of the Bill. It is a very controversial law change. The select committee process was rushed. Labour and the Greens are vehemently opposed to the Bill in its present form. The Act Party members were opposed to it, but appear to have changed their minds. The Maori Party did a deal with the government in order to buy their support.

Market confirms Telecom dicked Joyce

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

Market cap of Telecom up by 9% or over $400m since Joyce handed them not only the vast majority of the UFB deal but an underwrite which meant that they could not lose on the arrangement.

That $400m is what shareholders think is the NPV of the deal to them. That is their profit discounted back to present day values.

Nice if you can get it.

Joyce = Muldoon Mark II.

CEOs exit package just went up by $30m I reckon.

Filed under: broadband

Let’s not game

Posted by on May 25th, 2011


Lots of demand following TV3 article for a link to wasn’t meant to make available till Friday but have a look, play the game a few times to see the scenarios and give us feedback.

Making stuff up #3 papering over the (broadband) cracks…

Posted by on May 23rd, 2011

Fresh from his massive backdown/ flip flop (whatever you want to call it) on the regulatory holiday;  the central element of his broadband Bill, Steven Joyce’s latest stuff up in his flawed broadband scheme means hundreds of NZ schools… err… miss out on broadband.

More than 100,000 school students from up to 470 schools have somehow fallen into between the cracks into something called Zone 3 which isn’t covered by either scheme (Hogwarts???)

Several hundred communities miss out; such as Roxburgh, Gore, Cromwell, Alexandra, Westport, Dannevirke, Huntley, Kaitohe, Kaitaia, Matamata, Morrinsville, Opotiki, Orewa, Papakura… the list goes on.

Last week, questioned  in the House Steven Joyce said this:

The reality of the situation is that there was always a boundary between the ultra-fast broadband network and the rural broadband network, and it has always been the intention that schools within that geographical area would be tendered separately.

in response to this question from me:

Why is he using the $15 million that was allocated to connect the most remote schools in New Zealand to broadband, to now connect up to 108,000 New Zealand school students from up to 470 schools who were mistakenly left out of both his urban and rural broadband schemes, as identified in a report written by independent consultant Jonathan Brewer, and is this not just another almighty screw-up in his broadband scheme?

Steven Joyce is just making stuff up.

The NZ Herald reports on it here. The Ministry reckons it’s closer to 300 schools. Could they please find out? And could Steven Joyce tell us what he’s going to do about it?

And how it happened in the first place? Somebody stuffed up. Could it have been Steven Joyce?

See the list of schools here and the letter written to Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley from Internet NZ, Fed Farmers and TUANZ expressing concerns about it.

And see here and here for the reports written by Jonathan Brewer which exposed the issue. The map says it all.

Seems the broadband’s scheme’s full of cracks. Keen to know where the extra money’s going to come from to paper over these ones.

What’s next I wonder…