Since 1999 Ernie Newman has been immersed in the detail around the complex topic of telecommunications policy. (Some would say you need a serious personality defect to get into that fraught area!)
While focusing on the consumer perspective through TUANZ and INTUG, he has also acquired a deep understanding of the perspective and needs of new entrants and incumbents. This has come about through participation and representation with regulators, policy agencies and industry organisations, as well as explaining the consumer perspective on these issues countless times to the news media.
Over the years he has attended and presented at numerous industry and user conferences in most parts of the world.
His intensive involvement in New Zealand came at a time when the government had been in denial about the need for industry-specific regulation. It had relied instead on generic competition law. Ernie was instrumental in promoting the need for specific legislation, resulting in the Telecommunications Act 2002, updated and strengthened four years later.
Along the way and in subsequent years he was intimately involved in the detail of number portability, access regulation, local loop unbundling, mobile termnation regulation, mandatory wholesaling at regulated prices, bitstream unbundling, and a raft of similar measures. He drafted and presented comprehensive submissions to parliamentary committees, ministers, officials, industry leaders, and regulatory conferences.
He was at the centre of the establishment of a co-regulatory body, the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, and deeply involved with the development of many of its Codes of Practice. For several years he was a member of its Board - accepted by the industry despite being the voice of consumers. He led the charge to establish the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Service as a safety valve for consumers, and sat on its governing body. He believes in industry solutions as far as they can go, backed up by regulation where industry is unlikely to agree.
In his role as Chair of INTUG he engaged with user groups globally in their rmission to establish regulatory structures. For a decade he participated twice each year in the meetings of APECTel, the official working group of the APEC economies on telecommunications policy issues.
Since becoming a consultant he has advised telcos on regulatory issues in New Zealand and beyond. Recently through his joint consultancy with Chris O'Connell "Heartland Connectivity Taskforce Ltd" (HCT.KIWI) he has successfully turned around rural and political opinion to enable new legislation permitting fibre across electricity corridors, and managed the formation of a new industry group for Wireless Internet Serice Providers or WISPs (wispa.nz)
His philosophy on regulation remains unchanged. Industry specific regulation is crucial to any network industry. It should be as light handed as possible with as much as possible managed by the industry. However, the natural end point of a network industry, without regulation, is a monopoly - a situation that has been shown as highly disadvantageous to consumers and must be avoided at all costs.