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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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."
Global content by scyther5 / Shutterstock.com

Content distribution in New Zealand: Gunning for ‘global mode’

The Internet is frequently hailed as a global force for change – as a leveler which grants individuals anywhere in the world access to the content they want, at any time and from any place. Unfortunately, when it comes to content, the enforcement of intellectual property rights has become a boundary across which some content cannot freely cross, regardless of whether individuals are willing to pay a fair price to access it. This reality is becoming increasingly apparent as more countries gain access to local broadband networks capable of transporting on-demand video services, like Netflix and Hulu, which Americans already enjoy. In New Zealand last week, four former broadcasting competitors – MediaWorks, Sky, Spark, and Television New Zealand – joined together to clamp down on a clutch of small ISPs, who were enabling (and arguably encouraging) their customers to access US Internet content via “global mode” connections. At stake for these four firms was the protection of their investments in exclusive content rights, which they purchased from (predominantly American) content producers to distribute popular movies and television shows in New Zealand.
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When uncontrolled political powers want regulatory reform

What happens when political powers go out of their way to influence what is supposed to be an independent regulatory process? Simply put, you find yourself sitting on research and analyses that cannot possibly inform, but rather can only conform to, the already-made regulations and their political motivations. This is exactly what appears to have happened to the Open Internet Order: the White House pushed for the FCC to implement the “strongest possible rules” on broadband providers, and the resulting order came out “threadbare and conclusory throughout.” But America is not alone. A look to New Zealand shows Americans what they are in for in the coming months and years.