It's awfully difficult to see a month ahead in this industry sometimes, let alone trying to predict a year out... But anyway! In the spirit of bravery, and almost certainly being proven wrong on many of these, here are InternetNZ's Top 10 Predictions for the Internet in 2015.
10. More large-scale Intenet security incidents. We've already seen a lot of angsting about the hacking of Sony Pictures, with fingers being pointed at the North Koreans. We also know that these large-scale, public attacks are likely just the tip of the iceberg too. Unfortunately, as more and more data moves online, it is inevitable that the attractiveness of online attacks increases too. This is one of the big reasons why we commissioned research into what a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) could look like for New Zealand, and why continuing to work with agencies in this area will be important for InternetNZ in 2015.
9. ICANN will get to grips with becoming more accountable. Most in the Internet Community probably already know about the IANA transition to ICANN, and what that means for Internet Governance globally. An important sub-theme in this transition is ensuring that ICANN has structures and processes in place to ensure it remains accountable to the international Internet Community that it serves. We look forward to that realisation turning into real, tangible change during 2015. InternetNZ is uniquely placed to play a leading role in that regard, with our Chief Executive, Jordan Carter, on an important accountability design committee, and International Director Keith Davidson on the committee that oversees the transition itself.
8. Companies will realise that rampant charging for Internet access is just a bit rough. Again, perhaps this is optimistic naivety, but we still live in a world where people can be changed $10 per megabyte for Internet access while roaming overseas, and be subject to hilariously restrictive caps and charges while they’re in hotels. On the one hand, we’ve seen the cost of roaming transform for New Zealanders visiting Australia (still cheaper to get a local SIM though), but on the other we are sucker punching tourists for daring to come to New Zealand and expect to be able to tell people how awesome it is. This is profiteering madness, and hopefully it ends. One light side is the transformation from the likes of Spark, offering free wifi to their customers from phone boxes – and even promising to take that to a gigabit in New Zealand’s new Gigatown, Dunedin.
7. The Internet will continue to confound legislators. That isn't to say that we don't have excellent working relationships across the Parliamentary chamber, particularly through our Parliamentary Internet Forum (PIF), but that legislating the Internet is hard work. We will finally see the emergence of the Harmful Digital Communications Bill in 2015, and will see how well it strikes a balance between limiting harm online and damaging freedom of speech. There will almost certainly be more legislative challenges that the Internet will throw Parliament's way next year too - and we will do our damnedest to help them with those. Most importantly, we are looking at what we can do to start an Internet Law advisory grouping, taking inspiration from models used overseas, and you’ll see more about this from us next year.
6. We will still be talking about Copper pricing. This one sends a shudder down my spine, as the current regulatory debate on copper pricing really does make me want to weep with frustration. The Commerce Commission's current Final Pricing Principle (FPP) process will not go to plan, I am afraid to say - the process is being rushed, and there are simply too many issues to close this out efficiently in the timeframes as currently proposed. Already in December we have seen the Commission shuffle things back another few months in 2015 - at our request too, mind, to ensure that the process maintains its integrity. We are confident that the Commission will get this right, in the end, but there remains a long road to hoe. In the meantime, the more people connect to the UFB, the more pointless this debate seems. Ah, regulatory work.
5. We'll finally find out what the TPPA says, and then finally be able to work on Copyright. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) continues to grind on, and continues to be not terribly transparent in its work. We know that the New Zealand Government intends to hold off on a review of copyright legislation until this process is completed - we don't agree with that, as we see plenty to work on now - for example, how should we build protections for fair use into New Zealand legislation? How can we ensure that Copyright law enables greater innovation in New Zealand, rather than serving as a method through which overseas content owners can extract ever-longer monopoly rents off their works from New Zealanders? The TPPA is just part of this puzzle, and a worrying one at that. We will finally get to talk about these things in 2015, and that should be excellent.
4. More New Zealanders under 30 will access content via online platforms than through traditional broadcast means. We really are in the middle of a sea-change of consumer behaviour, and this under-30 cohort will likely lead the way. Use of Lightbox (Spark), Quickflix, Neon (SkyTV), Premiuer League Pass (Coliseum) and Netflix’s new NZ offer will increase dramatically next year. These are people that are never likely to pay $70+ per month to subscribe to SkyTV anyway, and the idea that content needs to be watched on a TV is foreign to them. Throw in on top of that that thousands of New Zealanders will continue to use technologies such as Global Mode to unlock content directly from overseas, and we will see the start of a content revolution in New Zealand. At InternetNZ, we will be working with the Chief Censors Office to understand what this means for classifications in the Internet age, to help these changes along.
3. Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) uptake will surge. The UFB is now reaching a critical mass of "homes passed", and the good news stories about how better an experience it is are becoming more common - and believe me, having had a 100mb circuit installed at home, it is worth the hype. New Zealanders will start connecting to the UFB in droves in 2015, proving that the investment was indeed worthwhile. That said, connectivity is just part one of this story - usage is part two. In 2015, we will be looking keenly at initiatives that will help drive high-quality usage of the Internet in New Zealand, to help realise the full potential of this technology.
2. Rural connectivity will take a great leap forward. We're feeling optimistic about the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI). The original RBI has been a bit of a damn squib - yes, an improvement, but not quite the improvement that rural New Zealand deserves. We've been working with Digital Development Associates to publish research into other ways that communities around New Zealand have been connecting to the Internet, and revealing some really compelling alternative stories to big telco. We think that RBI-2 will be a better opportunity to look at a wider range of technology options, and combined with enhanced mobile tech, we may end up with a plan for connecting rural New Zealand that is worth a bit more hype.
1. New Zealanders will continue to use the Internet in amazing ways. This one is the easiest prediction of all. We have seen so many exciting innovations in 2014 - Xero using the Internet to take on the biggest of the world's accounting corporations; High Road winning accolades for their creativity in web series creation; the guys at Grinding Gears Games launching their incredible game, Path of Exile, worldwide via the Internet, to name just a few. 2015 will see more of this. We at InternetNZ don't take credit for their achievements, but this is what the Internet allows for, and why we are proud to work to promote the benefits and uses of the Internet and protect its potential - to provide and protect a platform that allows this innovation to happen.
They’re our best guesses – what are yours? In the New Year, InternetNZ will be engaging with our members and the Internet Community to talk about our long term strategies, and our proposed work programme for 2015. This would be an excellent time to discuss all of the above, and many other things that we could be working on.
In the meantime: Merry Chrismas everyone. Thanks for being part of the Internet story in New Zealand in 2014. Let’s make 2015 a cracker.