Monday, August 09, 2010

I'm going to regret this

At heart I'm an "internationalist". As an example, I hate economic discussion where we talk about economic policy for Australia couched in terms of what our "global competitors" are doing. The theory of free trade is that everyone benefits from trade.

Similarly issues like displaced persons and climate change require international solutions. Ultimately I'd like to believe that we all have a responsibility for ensuring that everyone on the planet doesn't suffer from poverty or oppression.

But then you turn to the realities. Those realities are the talk-fests that the U and its forums become. In my sector of interest there has been many hours devoted to WSIS (the world summit on the information society I think). This has now been passed by the The Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

What I will regret is that I simply can't believe the "puffery" of this thing - let alone an interview with the "lead author". This starts by posing the question of how to best use Broadband for societal goals. The big unifying concept according to report author Paul Budde will be for governments themselves to make broadband a trans-sector initiative.

Those of us in Oz are used to this abominable Budde-ism. Sensible people would note that "broadband" is a general purpose technology and is trans-formative of all segments on its own. Those of us who really back market capitalism would say that the beneficial outcome of optimal usage is more about market structure than active Government involvement. My single biggest concern is the idea that structural separation alone gets you to the right outcome but then still allow bundling of access services with content.

This is the risk in the confused "trans-sectoral" thinking because it promotes the idea of big opportunities for both media companies and telcos in the wider service provision context. Let's be clear that the real opportunity is in genuinely delivering any-to-any connectivity - this is about standards and co-operative business models, not about bundling and opportunities for existing large firms to become larger.

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