Govt signals hands-off regulation of UFB video content

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams. Photo / Supplied
Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams. Photo / Supplied

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams will take a hands-off approach to the prospect of regulating video content delivered over a high-speed internet platform.

Adams, who picked up the ICT portfolio after last year's election, told the Future Broadband Conference in Auckland that it's too early to stifle industry with burdensome regulation, and she will try to avoid unnecessary intervention.

Content providers were included in a Commerce Commission-study into potential barriers to uptake of high-speed internet, much to the consternation of dominant pay-television operator Sky Network Television.

"I'm cautious about reaching for regulation as a solution at the stage when it is still too early, in my view, to anticipate how the competitive content market will look in a UFB (ultra-fast broadband) environment," Adams said.

"While the innovative services that have been launched in overseas markets are yet to make significant impact here, I'm concerned that premature government action could in fact stifle innovation in this space," she said.

The conference where Adams delivered her speech is part of the antitrust regulator's demand-side study into UFB uptake, and will discuss the nation's internet opportunities.

Adams said she is sceptical of a joint broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, saying the regulatory structure hasn't settled down yet, and markets may solve any problems on their own.

"I'm mindful that this industry has been through a period of considerable regulatory change in recent years, and my preference would be to let those changes bed in before more upheaval where that is possible," she said. "There would have to be clear evidence of a significant long-term problem for the government to cut across the market response."

Video content, such as blockbuster movies, live sports events and top-rating television programmes, have been flagged as likely early drivers for end-consumers to buy into broadband, which is currently the major form of traffic on existing internet protocol networks.

Following the minister, Alcatel Lucent New Zealand managing director Andrew Miller released a report saying the government's $1.5 billion investment in ultrafast broadband in urban and provincial areas, and its rural broadband policy will result in major productivity gains. Miller told the conference those gains in gross domestic product will be in the order of $1.37 for every $1 of capital expenditure.

- BusinessDesk

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