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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Counting the costs and benefits of government fiber beneficence

When Australia’s $40 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) plan to build a government-funded Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network reaching 93% of Australian residences was announced in 2008, it represented the single biggest infrastructure investment in the nation’s history. By way of comparison, its $40 billion budget exceeded estimates for the contemporaneously-approved Gorgon Gas project, which when completed will be one of the world’s largest natural gas field developments.

For the Gorgon project, both shareholder investment...

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Galvanizing government IT projects

Yesterday, my colleague Ariel Rabkin outlined a number of reasons why the Obama administration’s recently announced formation of the US Digital Service and the General Services Administration’s digital services group fall far short of the structural reforms necessary to deal with the core problems bedeviling government IT projects.  Collecting a couple of small groups of highly talented technologists to act as advisory teams for government projects might look good, but overlooks some critical differences between the requirements of modern IT projects and the nature of the government beast.  Nonetheless, it is an approach taken in many other countries, including New Zealand, where a Government Chief Information Officer has been appointed to provide sector leadership and is required to approve all government IT purchases.
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Innovation sweet spot: When technology meets business

Last month, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council requested public comments on the upcoming update of the Strategy for American Innovation. The strategy “helps guide the Administration’s efforts to promote lasting economic growth and competitiveness through policies that support transformative American innovation in products, processes, and services and spur new fundamental discoveries that in the long run lead to growing economic prosperity and rising living standards.”

In the policy...

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How the Kim Dotcom debacle is sidelining issues of government-funded broadband infrastructure

For those in the United States who think that it is a good idea for governments – national, state, or municipal – to fund fiber broadband rollouts, a cogent warning comes from New Zealand.  Political governance processes are subject to popular politicking – which means monitoring and enforcing the performance of network subsidy policies can rapidly get shunted aside by other political priorities. Here in New Zealand, economic and political debate has entered an uncanny ‘twilight zone’ as we count down to the triennial national election due to take place on September 20. This is the time for the incumbent government to trumpet its successes, and for its opponents to take it to task for not delivering on past promises. Just the time, one would think, to put under the microscope the performance of the country’s government-subsidized fiber-to-the-home Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network.
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Slow Netflix? It’s not always your ISP’s fault

New Zealand may be a long way from New York, but a large number of residents of ‘Middle Earth’ are avid Netflix customers. In the last week of May, a large number of these customers started experiencing difficulties accessing Netflix. In the context of the current net neutrality debates in the US, it was inevitable that some immediately jumped to the (erroneous) conclusion that their ISPs were deliberately slowing down or blocking Netflix traffic for some strategic reason. Unsurprisingly, the local Geekzone blogosphere was immediately congested with angry Netflix customers complaining about the shoddy and discriminatory behavior their ISPs - and most especially, the ‘big guy’ Telecom who everybody loves to hate - were ‘clearly’ engaging in. And, of course, such behavior was only possible because of the dilatory stance of New Zealand legislators and regulators in failing to act on their demands for net neutrality laws!