Fears Abbott's metadata laws could force small ISPs out of business, as calls for more consultation grow

2:39AM | Friday, 6 February

There are growing concerns the federal government’s proposed data retention laws could force smaller internet service providers and telcos out of business, with frustration mounting over inadequate consultation over the issue.   Metadata generally describes data about calls, emails, website visits and other electronic messages, such as the time they took place and where they originated, but does not include the content of these messages themselves.   Under legislation proposed by the federal government last year, ISPs would be required to store this data for a period of up to two years, with law enforcement agencies given the ability to access this information without a warrant.   Director of Smart50 finalist Broadband Solutions, Sam Bashiry, told SmartCompany if the legislation is adopted, the impact on smaller ISPs will be much larger than on telecommunications giants such as Optus, Telstra, Vodafone or iiNet.   “The likes of Optus and Telstra have a massive budget for that sort of thing – we don’t,” Bashiry says.   “And the last thing we want to see in this country is some of the smaller ISPs going out of business.”   Bashiry says the lack of information and consultation with smaller ISPs is his biggest concern with the legislation.   “There should be one law for all and there should be more consultation with smaller ISPs, because not all of the information is out there. It’s like the NBN – there are so many changes constantly being made,” Bashiry says.   “And how it will affect smaller ISPs will depend on how deep it goes. If it’s just browser history, that’s not really an issue. But if emails also need to be stored, there are costs involved with that.   “I read in the paper that under the laws, there is to be no need to keep records for Gmail accounts, but if a customer uses their ISP’s email account, then you’ll need to keep records. Now, that’s a huge loophole and there needs to be one rule for all.”   Bashiry’s concerns echo those made by industry lobby group the Communications Alliance in comments to News Corp, as well as by the peak body for Tasmania’s Information Communication Technology sector, TasICT.   TasICT executive director Dean Winter told SmartCompany small ISPs are anxious about what the new laws will mean for them.   “TasICT is very concerned that these proposed laws have been poorly communicated and not well understood,” Winter says.   “Any new requirement for data retention will have a proportionally higher impact on small ISPs. They would be likely to spend considerably more time and resources in attempting to understand the regulation and then implement and maintain the systems required to comply.”   “The process needs to be delayed so that government and industry can clarify which organisations will actually be covered by the scheme.”   SmartCompany contacted the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning but did not receive a response prior to publication.   However, in a speech to Parliament late last year, Minister Turnbull defended the proposed legislation, pointing out that historically phone companies held records detailing the time, duration, and A and B parties of phone calls.   “Access to metadata plays a central role in almost every counter-terrorism, counterespionage, cybersecurity and organised crime investigation,” Turnbull said.   “It is also used in almost all serious criminal investigations, including investigations into murder, serious sexual assaults, drug trafficking and kidnapping. The use of this kind of metadata, therefore, is not new. However, as the business models of service providers are changing with technology, they are keeping fewer records.”   “In June 2013, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security concluded that this diminution in the retention of metadata is harming law enforcement and national security capabilities, and that these changes are accelerating.”   Image credit: Flickr/gabitogol   This article orignally appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Optus-Innov8 startups get access to new co-working space in San Francisco

1:33AM | Thursday, 15 January

Securing office space in San Francisco is hard for any startup, but even more so for those from the Asia-Pacific region.   Block 71, a new co-working space in the South of Market District in San Francisco, will help ease the transition for Asia-Pacific startups heading to the United States.   Optus-Innov8’s Australian startups will get access to the space, which is a joint project of SingTel, Infocomm Development Authority and the National University of Singapore.   One Optus-Innov8 startup, NinjaBlocks, is set to make use of the space over the next few months as it looks to ramp up distribution in the US market. Optus-Innov8 lead principal Alfred Lo told Private Media the space will help its portfolio of startups make the leap to the US.   “We’re increasingly seeing more interaction between the US ecosystem and Australia, and I think South East Asian startups always have plans to get over to the Valley. Be it for partnerships, business development and obviously raising money as well,” Lo says.   “The move to set up a co-working space in San Francisco helps build a bridge between our region and the hot spot, startup Mecca, being the Valley.   “This provides a good landing spot, where startups can dust themselves off after a long haul flight for a three or four day business development visit, or something more long term.”   Optus-Innov8 is part of Optus and SingTel Group’s venture capital arm in Australia and focuses on at Series A investment opportunities. All 5000 square feet of Block 71 San Francisco will be shared by startups from the SingTel Innov8 Sparks group, the National University of Singapore and the Infocomm Development Authority. There will be a chance for friends of Optus-Innov8, not just startups it has invested in, to get access to the space, although its portfolio of companies will be given priority.   “First priority will go towards our portfolio of companies, and on a case by case basis we’ll be extending longer term access to the startups that we might with, that we have known for a while. Startups that we might not have yet made an investment in yet,” Lo says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Malcolm Turnbull places $29.5 billion cap on NBN spending, new multi-technology mix including HFC

4:43AM | Wednesday, 9 April

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has issued a new statement of expectations to the NBN Co, placing a cap on public investment in the project of $29.5 billion and mandating that a mix of technologies be used to deliver the project.   The new statement gives NBN Co the discretion to act within the $29.5 billion public equity capital limit, with the balance of the $41 billion project to be funded by the private sector.   At this stage the NBN will remain a wholesale-access network operating on the lowest level of the network stack and will continue to make the network available to all access seekers on equivalent terms.   The government still expects the project to result in the structural separation of Telstra when the network is complete.   The letter also sees NBN Co formally adopt the Coalition’s multi-technology mix model, rather than only rolling out fibre-to-the-premises in wired areas.   The rollout will include sections of existing Optus or Telstra hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable networks, trials of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technologies, and other technologies that can deliver at least 50 megabits per second to 90% of fixed line premises as soon as possible.   The government claims the use of the multi-technology model will save the NBN Co. $32 billion in delivering broadband services.   Areas identified as lacking in adequate broadband services in the government’s Broadband Availability and Quality Report will be prioritised for upgrades.   The statement of expectations will also require the NBN Co to have a higher level of transparency to Parliament.   Later this month, the government will receive a report from the second phase of its Strategic Review looking at the provision of services outside fixed wire areas, with the government also conducting ongoing negotiations with both Telstra and Optus.   Once those negotiations are complete, the government will deliver a Corporate Plan for the company.   Rodney Gedda from Telsyte told SmartCompany this morning new statement of expectations formalises many of the government’s existing plans on the National Broadband Network.   “It seems as though it’s a summary of the government’s existing policy changes since the last election, like the multi-technology model.   “In many cases it makes sense to utilise existing HFC networks as part of the rollout, which can currently run speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, and up to a gigabit per second in the future.   “Likewise, with fibre-to-the-basement, linking a multiplexer on a multi-apartment dwelling is more efficient than running fibre optic cable to every single apartment.   “However, when it comes to fibre-to-the node, we’re still stuck with the same speed degradation problems we get with ADSL copper.   “Really, it’s about how the government manages the process. There’s nothing wrong with using existing infrastructure to speed up the rollout, but it’s prudent strategy to also have an upgrade path for the future.”   Alongside the statement of expectations, the government has upgraded its MyBroadband website, adding more details about broadband availability and quality in their area, as well as line speeds.   In a statement, Turnbull says results from the speed test will be used to guide future rollouts.   “The results from the speed test will be collected and analysed by the Department of Communications and will help map internet speeds across Australia.   “I encourage all Australians to join the conversation at MyBroadband to help map internet speeds across the country.   “Once you click on the speed test tab, you will be asked to enter a valid address and answer some basic questions about your internet connection. You can then take the test and see your results.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Diversity is good, except as a business model

12:25AM | Monday, 2 December

When you were young, your grandfather always warned you not to put all your eggs in one basket. Well, when it comes to launching a business, your grandpa was wrong – and here’s why.   Back in the 1970s and 1980s, not putting your eggs in one industry basket was the business wisdom of the day. The end product was the diversified conglomerate.   In the US, Gulf and Western, a predecessor to Paramount Pictures, also sold clothing (Kayser-Roth), auto parts (APS), zinc, sugar, financial services, video games (Sega), bedding (Simmons) and tool manufacturing services (Thomas Ryder and Sons). They also owned a stadium (Madison Square Garden) and a couple of sports teams (the New York Rangers and New York Knicks).   Aside from oil, BP got itself into petrochemicals (including some it bought off Union Carbide), coal, minerals, seeds, fertiliser, livestock feed and sold pet food under the Purina brand.   In Australia, the worst offender was Pacific Dunlop. Among many other things, it sold clothing and footwear (Pacific Brands), rubber gloves (Ansell), tyres, auto parts, pacemakers, cochlear implants, tyres, dairy products (Yoplait, Peters), processed vegetables (Edgell, Birds Eye), baked goods (Four n’ Twenty Pies), tyres, fibre optic cables, healthcare products, bedding and ran auto stores.   Then there was Mayne Nickless. They were a trucking and air freight company that also offered pathology labs, IT and payroll services, computer networks (Maynenet), security services (MSS), non-prescription medications (including Cenovis and Nature's Own), ran retail pharmacies (Terry White and Chemmart) and owned 25% of Optus.   And when it comes to Christopher Skase’s Qintex and Bond Corporation, the less said the better.   Of course, there are good reasons why diversified companies usually end in tears. Just ask former coal, horse racing and rugby league mogul Nathan Tinkler.   Looking at these lists, many of these products don’t have the same customers, meaning there’s little benefit in cross selling or upselling products. There was really little way Mayne Nickless could have cross-sold next-day home delivery with a 24-hour pay TV sports channel on Optus Vision. And here’s a Four n’ Twenty pie – do you want a pacemaker with that?   Many of these products don’t share any common ingredients. While pet foods sometimes use questionable ingredients, you hope BP’s dog food didn’t share too many ingredients with its motor oil.   There’s also little advantage when it comes to branding. After a century of marketing “Dunlop” as a brand of tough rubber, would you really want a nice bowl of Dunlop ice cream? With sprinkles?   And underperforming businesses can fly under the radar with cross-subsidies for inefficient business models, where the management of a standalone company would be forced to act. There’s a reason why Christopher Skase’s three-time wooden spoon winning AFL team, the Brisbane Bears, were nicknamed the Koalas from Carrara.   Meanwhile, while there are plenty of executives who could effectively manage a medical implants firm market ice cream to 12-year-olds, the pool of people who have experience with both is a lot narrower.   It’s better to have a highly focused management team overseeing one business than it is to have a big bureaucracy overseeing a clutch of unrelated, poorly performing businesses.   Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be ambitious, to expand your business and to grow. But remember what your company’s core competencies are. Focus on doing what your business does well and then expand on it – but don’t go chasing millions in an industry you know little about!   So are you thinking of growing your business? If so, think long and hard about what you’re good at before you choose a path for growth. After all, you don’t want to end up like Bond Corporation!   Get it done – today!

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter files papers for $US1billion IPO

10:25PM | Thursday, 3 October

Social networking giant Twitter has filed papers with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission ahead of an IPO in which it seeks to raise $US1 billion.   The company revealed that it had 218 million users as of June 30, compared to around 1.2 billion for Facebook and 240 million for LinkedIn.   Twitter also revealed it lost $US69.3 million during the first half of 2013, compared to a $US49.1 million loss for the same time last year, but revenues grew to $US254 million from $US122 million.   Turnbull names Switkowski as new NBN chairman   Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named former Telstra and Optus chief executive Ziggy Switkowski as the chairman of NBN Co.   The German-born nuclear physicist replaces current NBN chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, while also temporarily replacing Mike Quigley as chief executive until a full-time replacement is appointed.   “In appointing Dr Switkowski to the board as chairman, we're appointing one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia ... someone who's been the CEO of not just Telstra but Optus as well, a very distinguished company director and chairman," Turnbull says.   Retailers renew calls for GST threshold cut as online shopping figures are released   The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing consumers spent more than $7.6 billion on online retailers on purchases below the $1000 GST threshold, prompting calls to remove the low-value threshold.   Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says the higher than expected sales point to an uneven playing field in the sector between local retailers and overseas-based online retailers.   “The concern isn't that people are spending money online – either locally or overseas. The concern is that it's not a level-playing field,” Zimmerman says.   “We believe that the firm of online [shopping] generally will grow, and as that figure grows, there will be a bigger loss of income to the states and territories if they don't do something about the low-value threshold.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down .9% to 14996.48. The Aussie dollar is at US93.96 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Private equity firms preparing Optus Satellite takeover bid

5:36AM | Wednesday, 29 May

Private equity firms including KKR, Carlyle Group and Eutelsat Communications are gearing up for a possible takeover bid for Optus' satellite assets, according to reports.   Optus’ parent company, Singapore-based communications giant SingTel, sent out information to the bidders on Monday ahead of a first-round deadline of June 14 and is believed to be expecting a bid of more than $2 billion.   It is unclear at the moment whether the bidders are interested in just the satellite assets of Optus or the entire business.   Super funds applying pressure for asset privatisations   The Industry Super Network has issued a report urging state and federal governments to privatise billions of dollars in assets in order to overcome a $770 billion infrastructure shortfall.   The superannuation funds say it makes little sense for them to invest billions of dollars in offshore infrastructure assets while infrastructure shortfalls exist in Australia, while the idea of asset privatisation might be more palatable if voters knew their superannuation funds were buying the assets.   "The toll a member might pay for using a road will be paid back with interest when they retire," the report says.   Apple could take a bite out of the big four banks   Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev has told a conference in Sydney that the competitive pressure applied by tech giants such as Apple and Google could be as great in some areas as it is from the other big three banks.   “We consider we have got very, very good competitors in the major banks, we have got very good competitors in the next-tier banks,” Narev said.   “We worry every day about all those competitors, but we worry equally about the niche players, many of them well resourced, many of them international. The Apples, the Googles, the Samsungs, the PayPals, the credit card companies, who can pick particular slivers as a result of the application of technology into financial services and compete.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.69% to 15,409.39. The Aussie dollar is down to US96.18 cents.

Social media drives Yatango’s mobile passion

3:41AM | Monday, 11 March

Yatango Mobile describes itself as the new kid on the Australian telecommunications block, after launching just last month.

“How we raised funds pre-development”: SpotJobs co-founder tells

3:31AM | Monday, 4 March

Another new niche job site, SpotJobs, is preparing for its national media launch next month, having already received seed funding and office space from residential builder Simonds Homes.

Samsung joins Visa for mobile payments, Australian rollout could take a while

3:40AM | Friday, 15 March

Long after many in the tech industry believed contactless payments in phones would be the norm, a new partnership between technology giant Samsung and payment group Visa may lead to more widespread adoption of using phones as wallets.

Gillard urged to help create 'Silicon Beach' for Australian tech businesses

3:53AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Government regulations need to change if Australia is to create a 'Silicon Beach' that will compete with the world's leading digital economies, a gathering of tech giants and start-ups has told Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Optus set to tuck into start-up scene after $6 million Eatability purchase

7:08AM | Friday, 27 July

Telecommunications giant Optus is ramping up its involvement in the start-up sector, alongside Singaporean parent SingTel, after acquiring Sydney-based food site Eatability for $6 million.

Businesses failing to create mobile-optimised sites: Report

5:57AM | Monday, 28 May

Less than a third of Australian businesses have created a mobile-optimised website, with even fewer creating new apps, a new report reveals.

THE NEWS WRAP: Optus facing $14.5 million claim from former staffer

4:16PM | Wednesday, 25 April

Several European political leaders have called on the debt-stricken eurozone to embrace growth over austerity, as the UK plunged back into a double-dip recession.

NBN Co. to offer tailored services to small firms

11:37AM | Wednesday, 9 November

The National Broadband Network Company will allow wholesale internet service providers to cater for small firms and home operators, enabling businesses to tailor their broadband services.

Google’s GoMo aims to make sites mobile-friendly

11:46AM | Wednesday, 2 November

Google has launched a new initiative aimed at helping businesses create mobile-friendly sites, as the uptake of mobile devices among consumers continues to increase.

Entrepreneurs still wary of cloud computing: Optus report

10:40AM | Tuesday, 25 October

Almost 60% of Australian small businesses are unaware or unsure of cloud computing and what it offers, a new report claims, while 43% struggle to keep up with developments in technology.

Perth company MOKO.Mobi acquires US networking site

7:16AM | Wednesday, 27 July

Perth-based mobile social networking company MOKO.Mobi has acquired US mobile site mbuzzy.com for up to $3 million in stock, as it attempts to make its mark in the US market.

THE NEWS WRAP: New Tiger chief committed to ‘long-term future’

7:18PM | Thursday, 7 July

Tiger Airways’ new chief executive, Tony Davis, says his appointment shows the airline is committed to its operation in Australia, despite speculation mounting on the future of the company.

Government road show aims to boost regional firms’ web presence

6:55AM | Tuesday, 14 June

The Federal Government has teamed up with the likes of PayPal, eBay and Optus to launch Driving Business Online, a nationwide road show designed to help small businesses achieve success online – and sell them on the benefits of the NBN.

NBN a threat to smaller players: analyst

3:06PM | Monday, 14 March

The national broadband network poses a threat to small IT companies in rural and regional areas, according to a senior industry analyst.