Hard News by Russell Brown

48

A night on the town with Mr Slack

Public Address won the NetGuide People's Choice Award for "Best Blog" last night. Many of you will realise that it isn't the first time this has happened, but it's still nice to be recognised in a public vote. I had been studiously laid-back about it all, but it did occur to me as the announcement drew near that I'd be a bit bummed if we didn't win.

David Slack accompanied me to the awards, and we both went up to collect the yellow plastic box that represents a trophy. I pointed out that we'd "met" in 1993 in the Iconz Usenet news group, and I actually think that even in the age of Facebook there's a lot about the social internet that essentially hasn't changed.

Not that there was a whole lot of the social internet at the awards. The crowd was from the commercial web, and even if David was a bit harsh ("it's like we thought we were coming to a Billy Bragg show and discovered it was Billy Joel") there really weren't many people we knew. It was nice to catch up with Mark Webster and Gordon White, and to meet Tama Easton (Brian Easton's boy, and the creator of the repeat award-winner vorb.co.nz), but there wasn't a lot to keep us there after the ceremony.

So we set off down the hill to the waterfront, and were accosted outside the Shakespeare by some fairly merry people, one of whom was the journalist Amanda Cropp. It turned out there were drinks upstairs for the delegates to this week's freelance journalism conference, so we gatecrashed that. Keith Ng was in the house, along with Jason Kemp, Fiona Rotherham, Kim Griggs, Pip Stevenson and a number of other fine folk.

Eventually, I needed feeding, so I dragged David off to Euro and treated us to the wagyu special. It was quite satisfying. We stopped off for a whisky at Cin Cin (where hours beforehand, the Public Address reader known as Slarty had emerged from his deep cover to introduce himself to us) before David caught his ferry.

Somewhere along the way, I had two or three more drinks than is strictly sensible, so I'm not exactly on my A-game this morning.

But I should comment on David Skilling's speech at the awards. Most of it was familiar territory, but he also said that Labour would be coming out with its own policy on broadband fibre soon -- meaning this month.

It's the second time I've heard that this week, and Peter Griffin's blog from the Tuanz conference underlined the impression that something is coming. But what? Cunliffe seemed to rule out both National's vague-but-ambitious big-bang plan and Skilling's FibreCo regulated monopoly.

As I've said before, I fid the monopoly idea a bit odd. Multiple operators interconnecting on reasonable (and if necessary, regulated) terms seems fine to me. Look at what's happening up north -- Northpower recently announced a partnership with TelstraClear on the rollout of its new fibre-optic network.

TelstraClear is spending $1 million on the link from Auckland to Whangarei, and now, I'm told, Kordia has come into the picture with a proposal to expand and extend Northpower's network with its own wireless services. This is a brilliant result for Northland.

And I think it demonstrates the possibilities of stepping out of the telco-only paradigm. I went in this week for a chat with people from Vector Communications VectorFibre, which is finally starting to get some retail action behind its Auckland fibre network. It's comprehensive in the Auckland CBD and bigger than I'd realised in greater Auckland.

They're already providing backhaul capacity to various Auckland telephone exchanges for Vodafone. The new bundles their channel partners are selling aren't quite mum-and-dad sized, but small businesses with five or six phone lines and a need for speed on internet will certainly want to have a look at the offer. I just hope the tories on the Auckland City Council can match the vision of the Far North council and start treating the presence of the Vector Network as a competitive advantage.

BTW, I think the young man who knocked on the door earlier in the week shopping Vodafone home-line and internet bundles will get his commission. It works for us: we keep our phone number, I get internet redundancy at a reasonable price (and ADSL 2+ speeds) for my home business, and national calling is free. I do believe things are improving …

Anyway, thanks to all our bloggers, commenters and readers, whether you voted or not. When I first launched Public Address, I called it "a community of weblogs". I think that's more the case now than ever.

Oh, and wish us luck for the Qantas Media Awards tonight …

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