After having the past five and bit years with National’s negative policies about anything to do with new technologies, it is really nice to see some effective red-tinged morning ideas appearing on the sky’s horizon. Of course that they were accidentally released because of a technology screw up does make them somewhat more delicious. And no it wasn’t Clare Curran who screwed up. She just took the hit.
Of course getting caught by a slow auto-fill in a email program is a classic mistake. In this case it meant typing in the correct recipient but getting caught hitting return on the first (?) person in the parliamentary database – Amy Adams. She happens to the opposition’s minister for doing stuff slowly and very reluctantly – currently:-
You have to remember that National has since 2008 managed to do exactly two things in the infotech area as far as I’m aware. They have been most notable for doing both extremely badly. Slowly dragging out a rollout of fibre, and surveillance.
Their takeover of the Labour policy for a fibre rollout has been a monument to how slow it was possible to make something happen. The current plan is to get to 75% of household by 2019 – 11 years after they promised to start. They over-promised what was feasible, fibre to the home (FTTH) rather than Labour’s much more feasible fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and then they funded it for less than Labour’s proposal. That is why it has been so damn slow. Most of the time was simply trying to get corporates to come to the party, and since then they have managed to finish the fibre to the node (FTTN) that was already underway prior to any political proposals.
It was also a comedy of errors, because while some of the first zones to be done were where there were high density residential housing in the central cities. However some idiot (probably Stephen Joyce) managed to forget that high density housing often consists of apartments. The agreements didn’t negotiate exactly how the fibre was going to be taken to those apartments. Consequently it is only in the last six months that there has been any take up in strata-title apartment buildings.
This is one of the main reasons that residential take up has been so slow.
The other has been that most people really don’t need fibre speeds. Quite simply the servers of content are mostly offshore and we have some of the worlds slowest download speeds to the major suppliers. It doesn’t really matter how fast the download connection is when you can’t get data at anything more than a fraction of the speed. We have a single expensive and rather rationed pipe the Southern Cross cable between us and the rest of the world from a monopoly supplier.
Where we have some local content providers, the speed on the local network is great. But with the exception of the Ubuntu local download servers and the old TV and movie content on Quickflix nothing much runs at speeds above offshore links. Which is why Chorus is dragging their feet over the price differential between copper and fibre lines. They know that there won’t be any significiant takeup of residential fibre for some time. People can’t get anything faster than they already are.
The 20 megabits per second of a urban download ADSL link are more than ample for everything that is currently available.
But personally I’d love to have fibre at home. We have a need for it. But I’m a computer programmer and blogger who routinely pushes about 40-50GB from my desktops to servers every month for work and ‘pleasure’. My partner is a filmmaker who can easily push 100GB offshore when the festivals are on.
But we can’t get fibre installed to our house because it is an apartment, and despite the fibre being laid outside the block nearly a year ago. So both of us are selling intellectual property exports to the world at a maximum and incredibly sluggish rate of just over 100 kilobytes per second. It takes about 3 hours to send a gigabyte of data offshore, about an hour to restore the database for this site at a server, and about 12 hours to send a copy of a documentary to a festival.
Then there is the problem caused by National’s other ICT venture in the last 5 years. They have massively increased the potential level of legal surveillance by bodies like police, SIS, customs, GCSB, and any of the GCSB’s 5 eyes partners.
After having watched these various bodies massively misusing their powers of undocumented and unsupervised surveillance over the last 6 years both with people I know and with apparently almost everyone, I now routinely run much of my traffic over encrypted streams. They re-enter the net in countries that don’t have policies that confuse democratic activism with subversion and view commercial espionage as their rationale for operations.
I’m not exactly alone. This means at present I spend a lot of time squirting data from NZ to a location somewhere in the world that isn’t the 5-eyes territory, to come back into NZ. I’m not alone. After seeing the disasters that National and other foolish governments have been making with their security policies pandering to paranoid dickheads and commercial spying and it’s impact on the net, I just do this to increase the amount of encrypted traffic they have to handle.
I guess National seems to enjoy slowing down the net. I really haven’t liked the lack of new local tech startups recently. It means that when the current crop of startups fostered prior to 2009 either grow to maturity and usually move closer to their markets or die, that the industries that support them also dies. The R&D and developmental assistance that National has slashed is one part of it. The other is the lack of suitable ICT infrastructure for all types of tech companies. It is just so damn short-sighted. But we’d be lost without National trying to support the commodity industries and their crony capitalists in the way that their fathers did..
Digging through the Labour’s ideas. They won’t be able to do all of them immediately, but at least they seem to be looking at doing something. I’ll write some more on those in a few days.