As the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill closes in on becoming law, ICT minister Amy Adams is sticking to messages of reassurance, telling a conference of IT professionals in Tauranga that it won't pave the way for wholesale spying or mandate back doors (which allow access to telco and service provider networks for the purposes of interception).
The bill has passed its second reading.
Among industry members' big concerns are the bill's broad definition of what constitutes an operator of these networks. The bill defines them as those that own, control or operate a public telecommunications network or wholesale and retail suppliers allowing others to provide telecommunications services.
Adams said the bill was fundamentally about updating long-held rules to reflect a fragmented communications market. "What hasn't changed is the incredible importance for real time interception for law enforcement. Anything in this space is a bit sensitive but the reality is agencies, mainly the police, are absolutely depending on real time information for almost every crime they investigate.
"If we don't have this limb of our law enforcement capability, we're at risk. I've seen how police use this information and it's very real. "It's not a dragnet, it doesn't allow wholesale looking at anything."
The proposed interception law related only to real time information and didn't require providers to store data, she said. Police still required a warrant to get information about specific people, she added.
Adams also told the conference the government had intervened in the price of internet services using the existing copper network to create certainty in the market.
International benchmarking, as carried out by the Commerce Commission, was usually the only available option for assessing the cost of a new fibre network, she said. But she said the five year window until the regulated fibre prices were due to change was very limited.
"For the first time we have the knowledge of exactly what [the cost of the network] costs, we have gone through a very comprehensive process to find that out."
The government was subsidising the network and it was only being rolled out to the easiest parts of the country, about seventy five percent, she said.
"For the first time we almost don't need to do international benchmarking.
"We said we were better to create certainty in the market and let everyone get on with it."
A lobby group, including IT groups, which initiated the 'Axe the Tax' campaign has pushed for the Commerce Commission to retain control over copper broadband pricing.
At the conference Adams repeated her earlier messages that there was no copper tax and there wouldn't be a big transfer of wealth to Chorus, saying it would lose money.
"In my view the real interest of consumers is getting the issues sorted so everyone can get into the market and start releasing products."