Andrew’s 2016 predictions review

Andrew Cushen A blog post from Andrew Cushen, Deputy Chief Executive at InternetNZ
13 December 2016

Well, 2016. It's nearly done and hasn't it been an interesting one - no less for our Internet either!

As I like to do at this time of year, let's run the ruler over the predictions we made this time last year. Let's see whether I have a future as a soothsayer.

My predictions were:

10: Governments continue to challenge encryption and anonymization on the Internet

CORRECT: We live in some scary times, and unfortunately we got this one right. Governments around the world are increasingly questioning encryption as part of their responses to terrorism. France and Germany are two countries that have slid down that slope this year.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about why these sorts of measures are a bad idea. It remains relevant now.

9: Pressure rises for data retention in New Zealand

PARTIAL CREDIT: All year we've been talking about the Independent Review of Intelligence and Security, and the increase in powers that our agencies have to "keep us safe." We wouldn't be surprised if there are some sneaky queries going to New Zealand telcos this year, asking what it would cost to increase the amount of data they retain.

Is this hard evidence that this is a thing here? We have none, but we do know that our Government looks to others for inspiration. If they are looking to the UK for that inspiration, even more reason to be worried - the new Snoopers Charter (AKA the Investigatory Powers Bill) includes some pretty scary stuff for the open Internet.

8: ICANN will sign off on becoming more accountable, and the IANA transition will happen

CORRECT: At long last, ICANN increases its accountability and responsibility to the global Internet community, and the US has started the process of cutting the strings and handing it over to all of us to control. Pause for some applause for the InternetNZ team who helped make this happen - Jordan and Keith, take a bow.

7: We'll still be talking about the Telecommunications Act Review (especially because of the Copper pricing decision)

CORRECT: This is a really live and important debate still, and 2017 may well be the year that we finally see some legislative moves.

We've been pretty strident about what we want from this process:

telco review image

James has plenty more info on the process and our submissions in his blog - keep an eye out for more on this next year.

6: Fibre uptake will continue to surge, but some real challenges will emerge on connection and performance

CORRECT: Fibre is flying out the door, but there has been some funny side effects of what has been a fantastic success story.

Chorus in particular has worn some flak for some funky installs. There remains plenty of concern that it takes too long to get people connected too - but there are finally some moves to do better with that.

We've also recently seen some wobbles about what Gigabit fibre really means (hint, Gigabit Ethernet doesn't quite deliver gigabit speeds in the real world).

That doesn't change the fact that the fibre install in New Zealand is a success story - particularly when compared to Australia. That also means that we need to start thinking about what next, which is a nice segue into...

5: The rural broadband story changes significantly

CORRECT: Mobile services in particular are changing the game, meaning that New Zealanders have ever more choices about who they use to connect and how they connect.

Here I am talking about exactly that with Paul Henry this year.

4: We still won't have an operational CERT...

PARTIAL CREDIT: It isn't operational yet, but it is well on its way. And that is pretty damn exciting and important for improving New Zealand's online security and responsiveness to online threats. We are eagerly awaiting news on who the CERT Director will be.

3: ...which means we will probably face New Zealand's biggest data breach or security incident to date

PARTIAL CREDIT: Not quite in terms of a New Zealand specific breach. But New Zealanders were surely caught by some really worrying global security breaches - the Yahoo breach for example. Another example was the Dropbox data breach, which included over 120,000 compromised accounts that used .nz domain names.

All told, 2016 was not a good year for data security online, with an estimated over 1 billion data records breached. That's pretty worrying - our CERT couldn't come soon enough.

2: Investment will be made in lifting the online skills of New Zealanders and our businesses

WRONG: Nearly... slowly, softly. We've had some great engagements with MBIE's new Digital Economy team and we're pleased to see that central Government is finally thinking about what it means to drive utilisation of the Internet.

Aside from that though, there isn't too much investment going on. That isn't to diminish the fine work of the 2020 Trust through Computers in Homes, or the work the Digital Office does for businesses via the Digital Journey. But we can't see any new efforts designed to lift New Zealanders' use and participation on the Internet, or on capturing the $34 billion in productivity benefits that the Innovation Partnership identified.

So the challenge remains. The Government invested billions into better connectivity on the premise that better social and economic outcomes would come. To really drive and derive the full benefit of connectivity, active investment needs to be made in 'how' connectivity can be used; in skills for New Zealanders and our businesses.

1: New Zealanders will STILL be using the Internet in amazing ways

CORRECT: As it always is, because that is what is amazing about the open Internet. I won't list some of those cool stories here because we see them every day.

What I will highlight again is that for the first time this year we reached out to New Zealanders to find out more about what they think about our Internet. In our research we found that 89% of respondents believe the positives of using the Internet outweigh the negatives. That's testimony to the amazing potential of the Internet, and something that we're still only scratching the surface of exploring.

Overall: 7.5/10

Not too shabby. Maybe I'll get that biscuit after all...

As always, we'd love to hear what you think about all of this. What were the main stories for the Internet in New Zealand for you?

Keep an eye out for our 2017 predictions in the first issue of dotNews for 2017. In the meantime, compliments of the season!