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Cunliffe: Opening ICANN meeting

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Communications
Minister of Information Technology

27 March 2006 Speech Notes
Opening ICANN meeting, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

E kui ma, e koro ma, e raurangatira ma - tena koutou katoa.

E te manuhiri kua tae mai nei i tenei wa, nau mai, haere mai ki te whenua nei, ara, Aotearoa.

He mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa.

No reira tena koutou, tena koutou huihui mai tatou katoa.


Acknowledgements: Conference organisers, colleagues, Winnie Laban, InternetNZ,

Introduction
I want to begin by welcoming attendees and contributors to this ICANN meeting in Wellington. It is an honour for New Zealand to host this international gathering. I would like to acknowledge the presence of delegates here for the Pacific Islands Communications Ministers Forum later this week.

InternetNZ needs to be congratulated for the initiative taken in hosting this event. I think it is particularly fitting that it should be held here in Wellington. The Wellington City Council just happened to be the first local government anywhere in the world to place the minutes of Council meetings on a public Internet site and was also the first to establish a website.

I want to cover three things today – the role of ICANN, some of the future challenges facing the Internet, and New Zealand's work in meeting those challenges.

The Internet for New Zealand: past, present, future

As many of you will have discovered in getting here, New Zealand is a long way from practically everywhere. It might be for this reason that New Zealanders have been amongst the earliest adopters of the Internet.

For most people the Internet is the first place to seek information and, increasingly, entertainment. As for e-commerce, our most heavily used website is an online trading operation, TradeMe, which has 1.2 million registered users, corresponding to close to one third of the total population of New Zealand.

Ten years ago dial-up Internet access was just taking off in New Zealand. 28.8kbps modems were the rule and no one had even heard of a "blog". Broadband was unheard of and the idea of downloading video or listening to the radio over the net would have had most people staring at you strangely.

What a difference a decade makes. While New Zealand's broadband is nothing (yet) to boast about, we can already see an emerging digital economy. Through all access methods Internet use is high – 80% of the population access the Internet and over 60% use it regularly.


If we have come this far in ten years, the mind boggles at what the next ten might hold for us:

- A converged telecommunications and Internet environment, with digital broadcasting in the mix.

- Ubiquitous fibre to the home in many countries, and ubiquitous wireless too.

- IPv6 meaning every item in your house could have an IP address.

- Telemedicine a reality over quality networks.

- An ability to work from your high country station on your web-based business through real broadband. I note the importance of the TUANZ rural conference being held in Timaru later this week.

And undoubtedly – a huge number of applications I haven't mentioned, and that 99% of the public haven't even thought of. The great fascination of this industry is that we don't know what we can't yet see – ICT opens up possibilities as vast as our ability to dream them.

ICANN in Wellington

ICANN is the proven seedbed for innovation - the story looks like one of technically clueful people sorting out protocols and technologies that allow interaction – without defining what they should be used for.

Your bottom-up, stakeholder-driven approach to policy development is one that seems able to deliver the interesting idea of policy outcomes where good ideas get picked up and implemented, regardless of where they come from.

The challenge for us now is how we cope with this arena that is in such a different space from that which we are used to working in. I consider it is important for public policy interact with this in a way that helps, not hinders, its development.


Future Internet Challenges

WSIS

It is unsurprising that the World Summit on the Information Society, the WSIS, focused much of its attention on the need for better access to the Internet and its resources and applications for the developing world. The New Zealand Government welcomes the Tunis Agenda and especially its call for greater online participation from least developed nations.

I take particular pleasure that New Zealand will host the meeting of communications ministers from the Pacific Island Forum Countries taking place on Thursday. This will be followed by a Pasifika IT expo on Friday. The principle focus of this meeting will be how improved access to information and communications technologies can assist in regional economic and social development. This will be especially important to small isolated island populations who wish to preserve their cultural heritage in an increasingly globalised and networked world.

Multilateralism
There is no doubt that governments are becoming more involved in Internet issues. The New Zealand Government has consistently supported ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee. It is essential that governments around the world take an interest in the health of the Internet, and the central coordinating functions that ICANN deals with. At the same time, I am convinced that these functions are being addressed appropriately and effectively with the present arrangements. The phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes up again and again in life for a very good reason.

I am respectful of the enormous contribution that ICANN has made to a free and well-functioning Internet.

The challenge facing the whole Internet community is to engage with governments in those areas where public policy can make a difference – whether it is anti-spam legislation or promoting competition in Internet access services.

I would like to explore the idea of a complementary multi-lateral approach to some Internet issues. The time is right for a discussion on how, globally, governments and stakeholders can effectively tackle issues like spam by working together.

A number of countries do have anti-spam legislation – New Zealand's is currently in the legislative process – but I believe that an international agreement would add credence to this.

Once New Zealand's legislation is passed, it is likely that we will want to engage bilaterally with other countries on reciprocal measures. A multi-lateral approach could be both more effective against spammers and a more efficient use of resources. It is a concept that I would like to develop further.

Internet Freedom

It is difficult to go past the comments by Dr Cerf made to the United States Senate in recent months, where he summed up with great clarity the dangers of a developing two-tier Internet.

New Zealand's government believes in maintaining the Internet as an open network, unconstrained as far as possible in its ability to:
· trial new products,
· deliver new services,
· revolutionize business models across the economy, and
· provide a forum for free speech, free expression and artistic development.

In particular, the government believes in the rights of people who purchase Internet access to have true access, not something that is filtered to prevent innovative Internet based services from competing with the telephone system, and not something where Internet customers are sold to the highest bidder. We understand that Internet users are nodes on the network like any other, with full rights of participation, and we respect the architectural principles that have made the Internet the amazing tool it is today.

New Zealand's Digital Strategy

New Zealand is currently in the process of building an effective knowledge-based economy. There is no doubt, that in this modern age, digital technologies are the key to growth.

The Government recognised that in order to plan for our digital future, we needed a nationwide working strategy. You find a copy of the Digital Strategy in your hand out.

The fundamental driver of the Digital Strategy is the WSIS insight that to get the best from ICTs the three key enablers of content, user-confidence and connection must be pursued in parallel. In essence, it's about ensuring that New Zealanders can access the digital content that enriches the quality of our lives. It's about making sure we have the confidence and capability to use ICT and a secure environment in which to do so. And of course, it's about making sure we can get connected to ICT and overcome any barriers to connection.

It's about how people use and benefit from ICT. In our modern world, the importance of information technologies, like the Internet is fundamental.

Our Digital Strategy reflects our understanding that unless all three "C's" – that is, confidence, content and connection, are progressed in parallel, we will not optimise either the rate of knowledge sharing or broadband uptake.

Because of the data richness of modern triple-play applications access, Internet users are famously hungry for bandwidth. In response to this, the government has placed a significant focus on broadband Internet for all New Zealanders.

Take up of applications to our new Broadband Challenge Fund and Community Partnership Fund are well above expectations and bid quality is high.

Telecommunications stocktake
Earlier I emphasised the very heavy use of the Internet by new Zealanders. This unfortunately is not reflected in the levels of broadband take up and use in this country. I intend to see that change.

Under the Government's Digital Strategy, we have committed New Zealand to being in the top quarter of the OECD for broadband uptake by 2010.

As the Prime Minister noted in her speech last month at the beginning of the parliamentary year, it's become very clear that new initiatives are needed to get faster internet access and at more competitive prices.

New Zealand is lagging behind on many broadband indicators. For example:
· Despite recently announced improvements, our connection speed offerings are on average still too slow.
· Our standard upload speed has been too slow for many users and has inhibited some important applications and development of advance services.
· We are one of the few countries where restrictive data caps have been the norm.
· The latest OECD rankings on the average per person investment in telecommunications infrastructure placed us at 22nd out of thirty nations.
· Similarly, the OECD's mid 2005 rankings for the level of broadband uptake also placed us at 22nd out of thirty.

I am overseeing a stock take of the telecommunications regulatory environment that will report by mid-year on what actions are needed to meet our broadband goals. As part of that process I have personally met with key stakeholders. A number of others have provided written comments. Ministry officials are now working through their analysis of the huge volume of information that has been received.
This has created a lot of speculation in the media and the telecommunications
industry about what possible outcomes. It would be fair to say that there is a significant number of New Zealanders who are very interested in the findings of this stocktake. In the few weeks my office has been inundated with correspondence on this issue, with approximately one thousand e-mails and letters received. The vast majority signaled a desire for reform.

However I wish to make clear that this is not a pre-determined process. The stocktake combines extensive information gathering, development of multiple policy options, scenario development and hypothesis testing against international best practice.
As the Prime Minister has noted, the status quo does not meet New Zealand's needs. But key decisions as to the nature of any change have yet to be made. Whatever is decided will not please everyone, but that is not our task. Rather, on the basis of the best information available, we must build a policy framework most likely to benefit New Zealand. Our intentions will be made public mid-year.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I wish you well for your discussions and your network. I understand that a wide range of issues will be canvassed at ICANN: some of the issues at this conference are of historical importance; and some will no doubt be controversial.

There are clearly some difficult questions that must be discussed and dealt with. Whether the issue is new top level domains, grappling with the new Internet Governance Forum, or the ongoing strategic direction of ICANN overall, I wish you the best for constructive and useful discussions here.


Cyber-Key presentation

Finally I wish to present Vint Cerf with this certificate. It is the "CyberKey to the City". I wish to present it on behalf the Wellington City Council (The Mayor), Citylink (Neil de Wit) and InternetNZ (Colin Jackson).

This certificate awards Vint with free access to the Internet in Wellington. It could fetch quite a high price on TradeMe ( i.e. it is purely symbolic.) Welcome to New Zealand and thank you for the amazing contribution you have provided to modern technology.

Welcome to Wellington, welcome to New Zealand. It is my pleasure to formally open this ICANN Meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

ENDS

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