Beyond Net Neutrality

I think we need to get beyond the religious debate that has net neutrality pitted as a black and white argument. The emerging issues are much more subtle, and if we don’t solve them we will have even more pressing issues.

Net Neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open Internet to launch their businesses, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute products to customer”

Others argue that the internet is a critical infrastructure, a human right even, and that it is replacing things like ports and rail as the drivers of the digital revolution.

The key element of this is that the internet makes commerce frictionless. Gone are many of the high cost elements required to start up a business and reach a huge audience. Only its not frictionless, not really Bandwidth Growth proves this.

 “That’s an increase of 46 per cent in six months. Most of the increase was in just three months”

The reality is that the friction has been moved to other parts of the value chain. Effectively someone else is doing the investment, not you the start up, especially in distribution.

Sure consumers pay the ISP for internet access, and to some extent I do buy the argument that for their money they should get full access to the internet. But the dynamics on the industry challenge this ongoing. Here in NZ we’ve seen a roughly 35% CAGR in bandwidth growth according to the commerce commission, yet prices have fallen 7%. That points to an unsustainable position. Sure there has been the inevitable impact of Moores law, equipment costs have fallen, but i doubt that this is offsetting the cost increases driven by volume…

So we circle back to net neutrality…. If we truly want a robust internet that will allow start ups then we must continue to invest in the internet itself.

Picking up the meme that the internet is a critical infrastructure like a Port. There are differences that should be thought through. A container ship pays landing fees and the cargo handlers. The goods are then offloaded onto alternate transport, this is paid for but the goods owner. The alternate transport provider pays road user charges, contributing to the infrastructure upkeep. Key difference is that the infrastructure isn’t required to double every 18 months…. So that model doesn’t work….Added to that, it appears that quite of lot of these global internet entities have structured themselves to minimise local tax spends.

And while the ecommerce models have resulted in end customer benefit due to price reductions, i’m not convinced that all of the efficiencies are being past onto customers, that is the internet entities are largely holding onto as much margin as they can (which I would too).

I wonder if there is an alternate solution, one without blanket rules. What about a model where small startups continue as is. For most of them their traffic volumes and corresponding costs are so low it doesn’t matter. But what about a model whereby when you hit certain volumes (adjusted for cost reductions due to infrastructure) then perhaps you contribute to the costs you are driving. Google, upon entry into the telco space has changed its stance toward net neutrality…. Perhaps also because it now has scale enough to pay for the costs it drives or perhaps because they now know the true costs of being a carrier. Or perhaps they have reaslised they are wholly dependant on a viable internet to be in business. Only they know.

What is clear to me at the least is that the current approach is unstainable. Netflix is big on the customer experience, even going as far as (potentially) shaming ISP’s by putting out lists detailing which ISP’s perform the best. But if ISP’s are forced to deal with a 46% increase in traffic without any increase in revenue, then they cannot and will not be able to maintain the user experience. So there is a bigger game, one that all the players in the end to end value chain to get to grips with else no one will have a business model…


Disclosure: These are my own opinions, and yes i work in the Telecommuncations industry


I’m working on it… I notice every day how my mind works differently from others.  It processes really quickly, but then gets distracted… looking for the next piece of stimulus. It takes real effort to come back to the task, whether is a monthly report,  mediation or the RFP i’m working on.  Funnily enought it makes me pretty good at seeing trends, and possibly why I can multitask and track many different streams.

I do wonder what it would be like to work on one task, be so consumed or passionate about it that its all you do, would I get way more done?

Another thing to ponder

Here’s to the bat crazy

I’m a big believer in constantly stretching myself. I seek out projects to do that, I read stuff about those who I admire, and I try to meet up with others who have been successul.

I’m inspired by folks like Richard Branson, Greg Cross (powerbyproxi), Ben Kepes, Vaughan Rowsell.  All successful, but all doing much much more, be it doing their best to change the world, supporting sports, doing impossible challenges or taking the path less trodden.

Now a confession, for a while now i’ve been talking about how much i’d like to do startup…by a while it might be more like 5 or so years. I don ‘t even write it down when I do my annual career planning, choosing instead to keep it a bit of a secrete.  Around this time of the year I beat myself up a bit and tell myself maybe next year.

Added to that are post by Ben, Rowan Simpson and others about what they are actually doing in the start up / investment space… I got a bit down on myself

So the truth is I’m a wisher…”i wish i could do a start up”. Read Ken Robinson’s book the element, in that he tells a story about how as a kid he said to a guy “man i wish i could play the guitar like you”… to which the guitarist said ” no you don’t, because if you REALLY did, you would practice every day, you are just saying that”…

I’m a 40 something, with 3 kids and a mortgage. I may never do the start up, as Mark Suster says its harder when you are in that demographic,  but i’m coming to terms with it.

On the other hand, at sub 21 you have the ability to swing for the fences…..  When you’re 40, have 3 kids and a mortgage this is much harder.

Lately though i’ve realised that my path might be a differfent one.  My partner and I are on our 5th business (seems a mad number), over which I think we’ve employeed around 100 people over the years.  Three times! Yes THREE times we’ve bought these businesses when our children were weeks old – not recommended unless you are clinically insane. Added to that iv’e done one small investment with Appsecute, started and ran a martial arts club and ….managed to work full time through it all.

I think this list is more conservative than some of the other folks i’ve listed, maybe less so because of them…. for without these guys leading and showing us the way, we dont reach higher.

So here’s to the bat crazy.

dated business models

I’ve been waiting on a parcel to be delivered, eagerly tracking it as it moved around the world from Minesota, via Ohio, Kentucky and now New Zealand.  I can see now that the parcel delivery company (in this case NZ Post) has been to my house

Delivery not made, left a Card to Call, item at depot. Please call us on XXX

I’ve had this before.  The card will say something like ” we will make another attempt to deliver the package, and then you have to pick it up from our local depot”

I’m struck by how wildly ineffecient the process is and how the carrier (and i’m not pointing the finger at NZ Post – well not just them) are abdicating their responsiblity to me…. as invariably they will attempt to deliver the package during the hours of 9am and 5pm.

Their whole business model is based on the data premise that 50% of the population is sitting at home, just like the used to in the [insert decade].

Why instead don’t these companies do some analysis. Data driven probability stuff.

Here’s what i’d do.  Look at my neighbourhood, find out how many people are working age, those that are at home parents, elderly etc. Then take a punt that in all probability, the majority of houses will be unattended during normal working hours.  So why waste time on a delivery. Instead try during the hours of 7am to 8.30 or after 6pm (again the laws of probability state if you work you are lmore likely to be home druing these hours.  The drivers can choose but as they are contracted they can make more on a single delivery than multiple failed attempts.  This isn’t even very sophisticated…

Imagine if the delivery company went all out and asked me when someone would likely be home on average…and stored that in a secure (SECURE) manner.  People are driven by routine, so on average this would vastly reduce the number of failed delivery attempts, resulting in cost savings, less pollution and happier customers…

I’m sure there are other business models like this, i know the internet has changed things somewhat but just occassionally (and normally only on really important occassions) you have to go into places like ….banks that don’t open on the weekend, local government, … why don’t you open when i’m not working??

the First rule of strategy is have an appetitie to do it.

I like strategy, when I see it developed and executed it’s a thing of beauty.  I love the game play and like deciphering what the competition is doing – incidentally imho Simon Wardley’s work is as ground breaking as it is simple)

But what is apparent to me is that a lot of companies talk about strategy, but actually have no appetite for it.

let me explain.  Recently I’ve recently had the fortune to have some catch ups with some of my old strategy colleagues. They have all cycled out of the business and for various reasons are now back ..they’ve come back wiser and with energy and lots of opinions… and many of the discussions we have (strategy being collaborative and benefiting from the network effect) often have a flavour of “ this business should”…. I’m listening to them, and its good thinking, but i know that the chance of it actually happening are virtually zero.

I know this because the moment i hear the world “should”, i know it won’t happen.  Should is a word we use to beat ourselves up.  It’s a forever word, one day maybe we’ll get onto that, a word that disempowers you… “i should go to the gym”… “I should spend more time with the kids”… “we should do that”.. “i should cycle in today”.  Well I can tell you, the days I cycle in are the ones I choose too, even when its subzero outside or raining.  There’s no question, no choice, I just do it.

I bet runners like Ben Kepes don’t say ” i should run today, they just plan it and do it. Founders of companies don’t say ” i have a good idea, i should do something about it”. They just get going and working on the idea.

Delivering on a strategy is the same.  Unless the business is up for it, focussed on that (and not the next fire / deal or trinket) the chances of success are very limited.

Next big question is how to get the business up for it.


content, comments and the customer

I had a recent twitter conversation with Chris Keal, the technology editor from the

In essence, NBR put out a story about how Season 4 of the Game of thrones being released by HBO was being geo-restricted by being  distributed through even less channels. Whereas last year it was availble in iTunes Australia, this year it wouldn’t be until the local distributor had aired all the episodes.

This artical was originally available free.  Then Chris tweeted that the story had now been moved behind the paywall, ie NBR had restricted access to the content.

@ChrisKeall is that irony or what?

Apparently not according to Chris,

@paulq Nope. Anyone from anywhere can choose to subscribe to NBR Online. HBO is restricting GoT online access by geography

he seems to think that because the NBR is available to all,  there are no paralells here.  Lance Wiggs agreed –

I agree with Chris – it’s about access, not about cost.

I say they’re wrong, cost is just another barrier

So lets look at why i think its ironic

Irony is defined as meaning

dissimulation, feigned ignorance”[1]), in its broadest sense, is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or event characterized by an incongruity, or contrast, between what the expectations of a situation are and what is really the case, with a third element, that defines that what is really the case is ironic because of the situation that led to it.


  1. a story about content being less available gets moved from free to paywalled ie less available = incongruity
  2.  the situation that led to this incongruity – a story about content restrictions get restricted.

Sure looks like irony to me.

But more important to me, was the whole argument.  The use of semantics to defend the position of one arm of the media is really enlightening.  Its enlightening because we all do it – deliberately or through cognitive bias.

In this instance its ok to place restrictions on content because it ” is sharper than ad funded”   ( as an aside – what the hell does that mean?)

As a consumer of both content types, i can tell you with absolute surity, all i see is restrictions.  The semantics of the situation and the whys and wherefores and rationalisation don’t mean much anything to me.

Its a great lesson, i’ve caught myself doing just this sort of thing.  You get lost in the technology, old business model or the absolute belief that you’ve got it right or the product is prefect… and you loose sight of the most imporant thing…how the end customer views it.

what cycling to work taught me about business

I started biking to work recently. Its been an interesting process both mentally and phyisically.

The mental process i went through to do this gave me some tremendous insights into myself and my business dealings.

Lets start with with the why

I couldn’t find the time to get to the gym and be the father and husband i wanted to be. And because of that i was getting fat, and i choose not to be fat. I’m not against fat people, its just a personal choice….i’m not going into middle age without a fight.

The decision process

Much internal debate here, where do I start

  1. Is it safe / will I die doing this (there was huge press coverage at the time about cycling deaths
  2. Will I actually do this… was it another fad like my gym membership
  3. What bike … road, moutain, full suspension, cost, … woah how much????
  4. Time – do i really have time to do this??
  5. Logisitcs – where do i put the bike at work and at home, how do i shower etc…

Tentitive steps

  1. i bought the cheapest bike i could – after all i still didn’t know if it was for me
  2. i tried out the route during the holidays  – less cars and minimal embarrasment if i couldn’t make it up the hill
  3. I road 2x in the first week, Monday and Friday…. i was exhausted by both… but it felt like progress

The result

  1. I’m not pathological – i ride 3-4 times a week…
  2. I leave slightly earlier in the morning but offset shower time at home with shower time here
  3. I take the 2nd hardest route home i can find, its a mother of a hill (there is one worse), and i ruthless about it. That blow-out is my exercise and I have always loved exercising really intensely
  4. I appear to beating the fat…
  5. I fit all this into my normal hours
  6. I am off-setting parking and petrol against the cost of the bike.. When i’ve paid off the that bike i might consider an upgrade, but untill then its still hasn’t earnt its keep

The learnings (personally and in business)

  1. There is always a tonne of reasons not to do something, in fact there may even be extensive research saying you shouldn’t. And we can always rationalise away the opportunity… that is easy.  Saying yes is the hard part
  2. All the reasons you had to say no become trivial when you get going…. I look over the list above and am embarrased they almost stopped me doing this…
  3. Starting something new brings its own energy and momentum. You have to push it along but eventually it will pull you too…. I’ve said before that i believe business is about momentum
  4. It took a mental ‘flip’ for me to seize this opportunity. I needed to see that I could fit in this exercise into the same commuting slots i had available… When i look at my days, they always appear busy, but when you look beyond the item to the what there are quite a lot of slots for you to fit in new initiatives…be they exercise, business or family releated.  The next time you sit down for some mindless TV, flick the ipad to facebook or whatever card game… or in my case wander to the car to commute, have a think about what else you could do in that time… actually you need to be stronger than ‘think’… time is like cash, you allocate the budget differently and get different results
  5. Start…. sometimes you won’t be able to work out all the details / logistics untill you are underway and that is ok… i’m inherently a problem solver, so addressing and optimising gaps becomes part of the process…. learning like children do (experiement)
  6. I initially used a whole bunch of tracking and mapping apps… i needed them to show improvement and keep me motivated when i was still half pregnant on the idea…. now though… i hardly use them. It’s my new normal i guess, but i can see when i take on the mother of all hills, i’ll be back. I will want to know how my times improve for a bit.

i’ve been reflecting.

As we move into the craziness that is Christmas, i’ve been reflecting….

It seems to me that the current economic dogma we find ourselves in is one great ponzi scheme.

We appear to be in a cycle of belief in perpetual growth expectations.  Growth driven off  consumerism… you borrow more to buy more stuff so more people can stay employed and of course buy more…

The perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to sustain the scheme.

Substitute higher returns for perpetual growth, what do you get…. one is wrong the other dogma

Isn’t this systemically flawed?  We live in a finite world that we are either depleting or damaging at an alarming pace..

There is ample evidence that consumerism makes us less happy… so why do we stick to it? Why not adopt a more sustaining and fulfilling dogma?


Choose: Plan and implement change or go with momentum

I’m increasingly convinced that for the vast majority of businesses, planning is a waste of resources – time, money and effort.

Very few companies actually have the ability to take the plan and force change, the type of change most business plans indicate. Instead they go through the motions

Without this, you might as well write a strategy which starts with general platitudes :-
“We’re going to be innovative, be efficient, be agile, focus on core, create a strong culture, create shareholder value, and establish ourselves in [XYZ]”
Where [XYZ] is fundamentally what everyone else is doing i.e. replace with whatever is popular amongst competitors at the time in hand and hence currently reported in the popular management press – HBR, Economist etc.
What these business actually do is driven by their momentum or business inertia.  They actively resist change, making the whole planning exercise nothing more than a compliance exercise.  You know what I mean, the type of excise where you hear the words
“here’s a one I did earlier”, or ” lets dust off the plan we wrote before”
If your business is like that, then save yourself the angst and don’t bother… focus your business on the momentum and stop burning through your human capital.  Sure, eventually you’ll go bust but hey. If you don’t implement the change needed, you will anyway.
Only 71 companies remain today from the original 1955 Fortune 500 list. Jim Collins, Built to last
But that’s not politically sustainable is it, its too fatalistic, you have to at least try right??
Well here’s the thing, true change requires big calls, rigid enforcement, investment and new stuff –  processes, people, methods and possibly, products…
In other words, hard stuff.
When I look at the great companies of today, they do the hard stuff. They kill off good ideas for great ones, they tell their shareholders where to go, they get into the predictable disruptions and live with canabalisation, they embrace new business models rather than protect the old, they change their business.
As an aside, we all know CEO pay has risen drastically, but they aren’t delivering the results. Interesting in the sharing economy that people aren’t tracking more correlation there.  I would also suggest that as shareholders, if you are holding for a long time and you keep hearing the same story at the AGM, maybe you should look at the leadership, because they aren’t implementing the change..they are dusting off the same plan and not delivering it…going with momentum rather than doing the hard stuff.

Did Ballmer consign Microsoft to oblivion

Its my belief that  CEO’s job is to run a company that will continue for the future.  They do that by putting a strategy in place that will enable the continued viability of the organisation….

I don’t buy into all of the capitalist market mantra out there.

  • I do not agree that growth will continue for ever,
  • I don’t agree with short term market demands like quarter by quarter reporting,
  • I do not agree that a CEO’s job is to only do a great job for shareholders.

The reason for this, is that it drives too many short term decisions.   The drivers are all wrong, given the trade off between moving to new markets or defending, defense always wins out.

Therefore when i look at Ballmers performance at Microsoft over the last 14 years, i’d say he’s failed to ensure Microsoft’s long term health.

one relatively new Apple product: the iPhone, is worth more than all of Microsoft

I really liked this piece by Ben Thompson, ” If Steve Ballmer ran Apple”… the playbook would have been simple, ramp up Sales costs, radically expand the product range to cover all possible segments, try and out muscle Samsung….and oh, maximise short term profits.

But no where in that mantra is their build products that customers love (not just want), There is nothing about entering new markets to stay relevant.  And heaven forbid doing that if it means the creative destruction for the core profit lines.   Steve failed

Microsoft was worth $600 billion the day before he assumed control. Yesterday its market cap was south of $270 billion

Steve couldn’t get his head around the changes needed to remain relevant and position MS for the future. I wrote this 4 years ago. Reviewing it now its a playbook on what not to do when a predictable disruption is on its way… and MS has remained largely a bit player in the cloud market.

What caused this? Well some of this is the capitalist mantra as above, some of this is purely wrong drivers.  Steve had such a personal vested interest in retaining the status quo (look at his wealth in shares). Isn’t it wrong that his wealth increased by nearly 3/4 of a billion just be resigning

His 333,252,990 shares of the company are worth about $11 billion, and the 7 percent run up in its stock after his announcement increased his stake, grossing him $769 million.

With that sort of personal inertia, MS was never going to make the changes it could…It takes someone truely exceptional to make the long term changes required for the continuing health of a company. Someone like a Branson, Morita, Bezos or Jobs… unfortunately for MS Ballmer was none of those…

For MS, the future is pretty grim. The trend is not your friend when the trajectory is down (read Stall points). They are late in cloud, irrelevant in mobile and becoming obsolete in the corporate.  I love Kinnect, and this could be a ray of hope. But the window of opportunity is closing…