Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell is general manager for the New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation and a faculty member of Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is a board member and secretary to the board of the International Telecommunications Society. She was formerly visiting research scientist at the Helsinki University of Technology. Building on both her formal education in economics and public policy, and her experience as a practitioner in the information technology sector in New Zealand and internationally, Bronwyn researches, teaches and writes on a broad range of matters concerning the Information Economy. Her publication portfolio includes journal articles, book chapters, monographs, working papers and presentations on technological diffusion, intellectual property rights and the contracting for and pricing of information goods. In recent years she has focused on competition and regulatory policy, and the evolution of industry interaction in the telecommunications and information communications technology markets. An area of particular interest has been the comparative effects of different forms of competition and regulation on market performance, especially in small, remote economies such as New Zealand.
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Battling copyright infringement online: The role of ISPs takes shape

Since every piece of Internet traffic passes through an ISP at some point, what sort of responsibility – if any – do ISPs have when copyright infringement takes place on their networks? This and related questions are currently top of mind for judges, lawmakers and policymakers around the world. In New Zealand, the question has been taken a step further as industry participants and observers debate a case where ISPs are accused of being active participants in copyright breaches. The debate has been brought about by a court action by four major content rights holders against a handful of ISPs, arguing that the ISPs instigated copyright violations by providing consumers “click-based” access to technologies that allow them to circumvent geo-blocking. The final decision in this case will help define the role of ISPs in online copyright infringement, but could also have broader implications for the commercial structure of the Internet.
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Universal service: A policy for social or corporate welfare?

Universal Service policies exist in most telecommunications markets around the world. But the devil is in the details of the exact arrangements under which the policies are enacted. In Australia, the Department of Communications is currently undertaking a review of the country’s universal service arrangements. In response to the review, Vodafone Australia has proposed that the universal service obligation be funded by a tax on industry participant profits, rather than a tax on connections as is most commonly observed in other countries (including the US). Vodafone’s proposal is deeply flawed as it confuses the policy objective of increasing competition in telecommunications markets with the universal service policy objective of securing a baseline level of communications services at reasonable prices for all consumers.
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The rural-urban divide on broadband adoption and pricing: Fact or fiction?

Much has been made in social, economic and policy commentary about a broadband divide between rural and urban communities, and the implications this divide may have on the abilities of both individuals and communities to prosper in a digital society. Variations in broadband adoption rates between rural and urban communities have served as the basis for calls to politicians and regulators to “do something” to redress the balance. In particular, many have pushed for policymakers to address discrepancies in consumer prices between the two camps. Surely, the argument goes, if everyone paid the same price, then adoption would equalize, and the divide would be closed? If only it was that easy.
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When copyright and CDNs collide

The growing number of Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) in New Zealand has unleashed a proverbial cat among the Internet pigeons. In a near-unprecedented move, four onetime competitors have joined forces in a legal action alleging a raft of small ISPs of copyright breach. The accusations are based on the ISPs promotion of Global mode services, which enable locals to get around geo-blocking by using overseas CDNs designed to ensure that they do not breach their distribution agreements with copyright holders. The outcome of this case is uncertain, but it will shed some light on the ability of copyrights to be implemented and enforced in a complex and evolving digital world.

Introducing the amazing Australian “Netflix tax”

Earlier this month, Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that he will introduce legislation subjecting overseas sellers of downloaded movies, music, books and other media to the obligation to collect and pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) to the Australian government for downloads destined for Australia. Mr. Hockey claimed the move would level the playing field, be easy to administer and raise billions in additional revenue. The move appears to have been prompted by the recent arrival of Netflix down-under, which is conveniently incorporated and selling its services from a non-Australian jurisdiction. As such, Netflix is not (at the moment at least) subject to the 10% GST on its subscriptions in the same manner as locally-incorporated streaming services are. Colloquially, this has now been dubbed the "Netflix Tax."