Hard News by Russell Brown


Playing Nice?

Telecom seems to have decided that co-operation is the better part of valour in hitching itself to the government's grand fibre plan -- and, in the process, putting some meat on the bones of the idea.

A statement released this morning commits Telecom to providing high-speed fibre to "every school and hospital by Term 2, 2012". And Computerworld's story quotes CEO Paul Reynolds as offering two potential ways forward:

"accelerating the roll-out of fibre infrastructure by co-ordinating both our investments" and "creating a national fibre ducting asset".

I couldn't find a link to Telecom's full submission, so I've uploaded it here.

It's hard to say what Telecom's offer to play nice does for the infrastructure competition the government was promising, but the company's competitors will presumably be wary of it coming in from the cold.

Vodafone and Orcon seem to be expecting that the Commerce Commission's decision on terms for access to Telecom's roadside cabinets (effectively, extending regulated unbundling from the exchanges to the cabinets themselves, where competitors might then place their own broadband equipment) will be much more to Telecom's liking than theirs.


I sincerely hope that not a cent of students' money is going towards the absurd legal threats being issued by Michael Oliver, the news editor of Salient, the Victoria Universty of Wellington student paper. And even if not, perhaps it’s a good time for a grown-up to drop by the office and see what on earth is going on.

Oliver, clearly, is a quirky sort. And there's obviously a little history between himself and the keeper of the Big News blog, Dave Crampton, who wrote this post noting dozens of comments posted under fake names (some very well-known) beneath one of his own blog posts, and identifying Oliver as the editor of those comments. He also says Oliver has posted comments in a similar fashion under Oliver's own stories on the Salient website.

As evidence, Crampton notes similarities in the various texts and oddities of timing. I don't know if he's right. So it's a workaday blog squabble --or rather, was, until Crampton received a letter from Wellington barrister Paul Chisnall acting under instruction from Salient and Oliver.

My first response on seeing the letter was to ask Crampton if he was sure that Mr Chisnall actually existed, so preposterous were parts of the letter. Among the "allegations" it demands be removed from Crampton's blog are the passages "but Oliver is no ordinary news editor" and "smart ass Oliver".

Further, it declares "Salient and Michael Oliver refute all the allegations made on your blog. They say that the allegations made on your blog are defamatory and untrue." You, too, may be thinking that even if the client doesn't know what "refute" means, surely his lawyer would.

The letter goes on to demand removal of the post on Big News, an apology to Salient and Oliver, subject to their approval, and that Crampton, who lives on a student allowance, meet Salient's and Oliver's legal expenses -- under pain of court proceedings to seek costs, damages and removal of the article. It sets a deadline of 5pm tomorrow.

Oliver may have been revved up by this post about the affair by AUT's Martin Hirst. But his response is such as to bring Salient and its owners into disrepute. If he really is not the author of the many bogus comments, he should have taken up Crampton's invitation to say so, under his own name.

Using someone else's money, if that is the case, to issue threats against an honours student in no position to pay for a lawyer himself is not really acceptable. It goes beyond the transgressions we accept and expect from student journalists, and does no good to any aspirations Oliver might have to a journalistic career of his own.

On the face of it, Salient and Oliver need saving from themselves. It would be a relief if someone with a little sense were to expedite the process.


Oh, and a message to Bruce Wileman of BB Internet Group, Johnsonville, Wellington. If you want to try and cash in on the swine flu scare by registering an "information" site and trying to game Google ad revenue, I can't stop you. But do not spam the forums here with links to your sorry little enterprise.


We've turned on a dime and gone for the swine in this week's Media7. The opening panel will look at the swine flu coverage with the assistance of Radio New Zealand health correspondent Karen Brown, New Zealand Doctor editor Barbara Fountain and one other.

And then -- because it's 20 years ago this month -- I'll be pondering the connection of New Zealand's first internet link to the rest of the world, and what happened next, with David Farrar, Colin Jackson and Nat Torkington. They all have their own stories to tell of our early internet, so that ought to be fun.

If you're like to join us for tomorrow's recording, after 5pm at the Classic Comedy Club in Queen St, hit Reply and let me know.

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