Communications and IT minister Amy Adams delivered a wide-ranging speech opening the 2013 IITP Conference in Tauranga.
She used the occasion to clarify her position on two contentious issues: the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security (TICS) legislation and government intervention in copper pricing.
Adams talked down criticism of TICS. She says we’ve moved from having one company control the only significant network to multiple networks and many companies.
She says: “The way we communication now is different to the copper era and the industry operates differently. We haven’t changed our definition of what is a network operator or what is a service provider and what their obligations are.
“The new law is simply a matter of updating the rules for a digital world. What hasn’t changed is the importance of real time interception for law enforcement. The police are dependent on real time interception to tackle crime”.
Adams says contrary to what some critics say, the new law does not open backdoors. Nor does it give the GCSB fresh powers: “It doesn’t related to stored data or cloud computing. Interception requires a single warrant to cover a single person”.
The TICS legislation has come under fire from industry players and from international companies like Google and Microsoft. They see the laws as imposing new constants and say it presents them with a serious legal conflict. Demands from New Zealand agencies to turn over information elsewhere in the world could see them break local privacy and confidentiality laws.
Adams says these companies misunderstood their position under existing law. The definition of a network provider hasn’t changed. And as for the legal conflict, Adams says the TICS legislation calls for a “duty to assist”. This comes with a reasonability test.
Not a tax, nor a transfer
Turning to copper pricing Adams points out the money is not a tax or a transfer. She say it is a matter between wholesale and retail service providers (i.e. Chorus and the ISPs). “I’ve not seen any indication the service providers would pass the savings on to their customers”.
Part of the debate hangs on establishing the cost of building a modern replacement for the copper network.
She says the modern alternative is a fibre network: “Normally we look at international benchmarks and overseas best practice. But when it comes to determining the cost of building a fibre network, we know what the prices are because we’re building one here”.
Adams says the controversial copper price regime would only last for five years from 2014 to 2019. Then new regulations will come in.