Pat Pilcher: The Internet Party - About time

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When the ever colourful and controversial Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom announced a new political party, traffic on social networks, the blogosphere and the media in New Zealand went into overdrive as all sorts of "experts" came out of the woodwork with opinions ranging from how Dotcom's new political party is good, bad or even the beginning of the end for New Zealand.

Trouble is that there is still a near complete absence of any real policy coming out of the newly formed political party, which was after all only announced a week ago. This however doesn't appear to have stopped anyone though, as nearly every person, their dog, cat and budgie seems to have an opinion on the party, no matter how uninformed it may be.

That old maxim that any news is good publicity certainly holds true here. I'd wager that the PR hacks of the established political parties are looking at the media scrum surrounding Kim Dotcom's political party with envy over the sheer amount of resonance it has already had with the general public.

With an election looming, many political parties in New Zealand must also be wondering just how they can stand out in a crowded voter market. Information is scarce but Dotcom's political party seems to be all about the Internet. While there's no shortage of speculation around precisely what that means, the timing of an Internet party couldn't be any better, and as it stands, with the exception of the local arm of the Pirate Party, it's a niche that Kim Dotcom's party pretty much has all to itself.

Issues such as online privacy, intellectual property and online freedom have all become burning issues over the last 18 months, with public awareness at an all time high. Sadly this hasn't translated into any real political championing for the rights of the New Zealand public around these issues by any of the big political parties.

Over the last 12 months we've seen online privacy evaporate thanks to Orwellian laws that handed over our online privacy to the folks at the GCSB. Of equal concern are the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations that have been quietly underway for ages.

While a Trans Pacific Partnership deal could secure something approximating free trade with the US, little is being said about what might have to be given up in order for New Zealand to secure a trade deal.

Many fear that New Zealand may be forced to adopt some pretty unfavourable intellectual property and other Internet related laws before any deal can go ahead.

Now it also appears that net neutrality could soon also come under attack in New Zealand as the US supreme court has ruled that US Internet providers can block any website, video, or any other data running through their networks.

This raises the very ugly spectre of ISPs being able to choose what info to provide access to or even providing different quality of connectivity to some players over others. Some websites could for instance load incredibly slowly while others (who've paid fees to the ISP) load instantly.

This is really worrying as I don't want anonymous oik working an ISP telling me what I can and can't see online.

Bizarrely none of these issues have been raised or fought in a big way by any of the current political parties, yet they're all pretty important issues.

My big hope is that Kim Dotcom's party will work to get issues such as these up on the public agenda where they belong, rather than merely promising fibre-flavoured ultra fast broadband sweeteners to win votes.

Even if the Internet Party don't hit the 5% threshold to secure a seat in the elections, they've at least fired a warning shot across the bows of the other parties that the Internet and technology is an issue that matters to a growing number of people.

There's a lot at stake, ignoring these issues at a political level could have impacts that'll reverberate throughout New Zealand's future.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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