Initial thoughts on convergence

Pretty big news recently in the Government's release of their Exploring Digital Convergence "Green Paper". You've likely already seen our press release on this; in case you didn't its here:

We're pretty happy to see the Government tackling the range of issues here en masse. There's heaps to think about in terms of how we use this review to promote the benefits and uses of the Internet and protect its potential. We've asked them for a while now to do this job fully, and right, and consider the lot. Its pretty neat to see them do just that now.

However... this is a colossal programme of work. The eight streams envisaged are as follows:

- Investment in fast connectivity networks

- Cyber security

- Convergence and content consultation

- Spectrum management

- Review of the framework for telecommunications

- GST and cross-border services and intangibles

- Study of the creative sector use of the copyright and designs regimes

- Data futures partnership.

Each of these items on their own are big pieces of discussion, policy making and legislation. That they are seeking to undertake eight of them at once is a massive resource commitment in order to get it right. And that realisation leads to some other thoughts and questions.

This clearly will need to be a multi-agency programme of work. Indeed, the first of the consultation papers on Content Regulation in a Converged World is a document primed by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, while the main overarching document is from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Cyber Security is being done by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

We're plugged into working on a number of these streams already on behalf of the New Zealand Internet Community. There's a lot to digest; but here are some of our initial thoughts.

The first one concerns how this massive programme of work will be managed. As the likes of Rick Shera have already shared on our Policy Advisory Group list though (thanks Rick), how are all of these pieces going to be managed to maintain a cohesive whole? How are the separate workstreams, led by separate agencies, going to overlap, to ensure that their recommendations and policy prescriptions support the wider ecosystem that is being influenced here? How will learnings in Copyright be referenced in Data Futures; how will Investment relate to the telecommunications framework; how will GST relate to the content regulation piece? We don't know the answers to this. We've received a document that is exciting in its vision and scope, but light on detail in terms of how this "cross-pollination" will be achieved in practice. And it seems to me that solving that cross-referencing challenge is one of the real tests of success for the Government in this work.

We're also curious about what are the timeframes for this work? We know that the Government needs to have some of these pieces in place for certain dates - for example 2020, in the case of a new fibre-appropriate telecommunications framework. How is this entire process going to work when we have an election in 2017? Can we deal with all of these questions before then? If we try to, will we do them justice?

What does this process mean for other, related work that we know is relevant or impacting on these processes? For example, what about the Trans-Pacific Partnership; how will that relate to the copyright pieces? Another example - will the long awaited review of the Telecommunications Service Obligations be included in these items?

It's with these thoughts in mind that InternetNZ will be participating heavily in this process - not just in forming our own submissions, but also in providing spaces for the Internet Community to collaborate and discuss these ideas and hopefully find common ways forward. I want to be clear here - we are indeed truly excited to see the Government take this scope on; indeed, we applaud them for doing so. But the next challenge is to do that scope justice. That requires joined up thinking. That requires tackling all of the components that we know are relevant and that matter. And that requires clarity about timeframes.

We're up for helping with that. Keep tuned.