iiNet's Steve Dalby: 'Foxtel Is On Borrowed Time'

For the uninitiated, Steve Dalby is iiNet's chief regulatory officer and enemy number one according to the content industry. He took to Reddit yesterday for a public Q&A, and lashed studios and distributors for their resistance towards online distribution.

One of the earliest questions for Dalby in his Reddit Q&A, also known as an "Ask Me Anything" or AMA, was about pricing and availability of content. Specifically, Dalby was asked whether Foxtel -- which has held shows like Game Of Thrones under exclusive embargo -- has a future in Australia.

Dalby's response was blunt: "Foxtel is on borrowed time."

"The reports about the volume of piracy are BS. Sure we love our content that is in our DNA.

"Making content available in a timely, affordable away will go a long way to tapping into the Australian willingness to pay for legitimate content. Let's face it, if 500,000 Aussies were prepared to pay 447% of the price previously charged by iTunes (for GoT, according to Foxtel) then they will pay."

Solving the availability crisis is difficult for Australia, the ISP exec said, simply because Australia is a much smaller market than places like Europe or Asia, making it's a "lower priority" for content distributors. He added that neither Foxtel or iiNet's own FetchTV product was able to cater for the way consumers watch content now.

"Fetch is growing and gaining traction, but it's still linear, consumers want to watch what they want when they want. Neither Foxtel nor Fetch currently address that style of demand," he said.

Dalby said that if Netflix was to come to Australia to level the playing field on content availability and pricing, iiNet would happily partner with it for uncapped streaming, but reiterated that the Australian market is so small that Netflix would barely consider it.

"We'd be happy to have that conversation. Of course the size of the Aussie market militates against their interest. But we'd do it," he said.

The content availability stalemate means that many users turn to pirating content from sites like The Pirate Bay, leading to intervention from the government. Ultimately, Dalby wants you to call up the Attorney-General and talk to him about what can be done to stop piracy properly in Australia.

Attorney-General George Brandis continues to hold in-depth discussions with the content industry about introducing a tough piracy crackdown regime that is rumoured to include a graduated response, or "three-strikes" scheme, as well as site blocking protocols to weed out portals like The Pirate Bay and EZTV.

iiNet, as well as Google and other interested parties, have all said that the cure to piracy goes beyond just punitive measures: it's all about making content available at the same time everywhere for the same price and removing the geoblocks from platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

Other parties, like Village Roadshow's co-CEO Graham Burke, have vehemently disagreed, venomously slamming the online players in the process.

Dalby's message is simple: ask AG Brandis why he's not asking the people how to fix piracy:

"Have a chat to George Brandis and ask him why he doesn't consult more widely. He'll ignore you, but you should still ask," Dalby wrote.

iiNet and the NBN

By far, one of the most popular subjects discussed between Dalby and his readers was the state of the National Broadband Network and how it affected iiNet's business model.

Between the questions about when the fibre network would be available to people's homes, right through to the internet speed Dalby gets to his own home right now (18Mbps down, 1.2Mbps up for those wondering), he was asked how discussions between NBN Co and the ISP had been going to ensure that the roll-out would continue. The short answer? Not well: the two have issues with each other.

"I'm not going into detail, but suffice to say, NBN Co generally set up that only their opinion counts. Everyone else is wrong. We'd like to be treated like a customer, not the enemy. That might help reduce the combat."

iiNet has butted heads with NBN Co before, with the blue often spilling out into the street for all to see. Most recently, iiNet decided to pass on NBN Co's new wholesale agreement, citing the company's "appalling delivery record" when it came to supplying fibre.

Furthermore, according to Dalby, the future of the NBN is bleak.

"[The NBN] is a political football. And that's it, really. I don't think Cabinet gives a fig about NBN's value to the Nation. I've seen little to inspire us on that front. Remember 'The age of entitlement' is over.

"That probably means we should expect to get less and we should also expect our standards of living to decline," he wrote.

When asked whether iiNet would follow TPG's lead and invest in a fibre-to-the-basement/building network of its own, Dalby was optimistic.

"We'll never say never, but it is low on our priority list today. We are not a construction company, that is a very different kind of business," he said, adding that the current deployment of VDSL for FTTB roll-outs will be obsolete within the decade.

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