Commentary by Steve Effros
As I noted in a column a few weeks ago, I was heading off for a three week jaunt in New Zealand. I’m back. I can see that nothing much has taken place in my absence that wasn’t expected! And that, of course, is a very loaded statement. First things first. If you have not been to New Zealand, be sure to put it on your “must do” list.
It’s a wonderful country and incredibly beautiful. Yes, I went to Hobbiton, (actually a farm in Matamata, NZ) and got some great shots of where and how Peter Jackson filmed portions of the Lord of the Rings. To be honest, the entire South Island of New Zealand looks like a movie set. Fern forests, hundreds of waterfalls, craggy mountains and fjords. It was truly amazing and I have lots of pictures that I will organize some day. Go. A long trip (we spent 23 hours in planes and airports to get back from Wellington) and the odds are good that you will have a cold, as both Lucia and I do, by the time you wear down your body during the travel, but it’s worth it.
One of the things I most noticed was the absolutely welcoming and helpful nature of the folks there. Yes, it’s a tourist economy, so you can expect that the professionals taking care of you on your trip are going to do it well. They did. But much more than that—the “regular folks” on the street were just as welcoming and just as helpful. If you were standing on a corner trying to decide if the destination you were seeking was left or right, inevitably someone would stop, ask if you needed help, and point the way. It was so refreshing.
Another thing I noticed, much to my chagrin, was that this was the first foreign trip I have taken (and I’ve taken many) where folks commiserated over what was happening at home.We tried to ignore all that as much as we could, but it was really hard, especially when there was a “blow up” telephone call with the Aussie Prime Minister. You can be sure that was fully covered down there! In any event, now that I’m back I note that insofar as telecom is concerned we are right on course with the new administration, particularly because Commissioner Pai, now chairman, is experienced, knowledgeable about the various issues, and doesn’t need anyone to “get him up to speed.”
I also note that the (now) “loyal opposition” is already in full throat about net neutrality with press conferences and op-ed pieces decrying the potential death of the Internet at the hands of the… well, here’s where it gets a little dicey. Normally you would say that changing the regulatory structure for broadband away from “common carrier” prescriptions would be done at the behest of “the big guys” and the protesters would be on the side of “consumers” and “the little guys.” But in this case most of the regulatory excess of the last few years has been very much at the behest of the “biggest,” such as Google, Amazon and Apple.
So the picture is far less clear and who the “good” and “bad” actors are is much murkier. One thing is for sure, however, it’s still going to be noisy, and as I have noted in previous columns, I think Chairman Pai will know how to navigate the currents. We live, as the Chinese curse suggests, in interesting times.