ajobbins: I see seveal issues contributing to cost and speed in New Zealand
1) Population & Population Density - New Zealand is not a particularly (densely) populated country. This drives up costs as you end up running longer cables, having under utilised equipment etc.
It's an issue but there are a lot of countries who have managed to solve it. In fact many small countries have managed to do much better than bigger countries. Smaller countries are supposed to be - and can be - dynamic, fast and flexible.
There is one thing though -- timing. When you one goes the wrong way, you may end up paying the price in the long run. When everyone is already connected, albeit capped and for high price, the competition is very different to a market where everyone is fighting for the same customers at the same time. (Did I say CDMA? ;-)
2) Poor peering
Is this something that the ComCom should enforce? In a small country, with expensive international bandwidth, national peering should be de-facto.
I don't remember seeing any other country the size of NZ with so many peering points, though. Just for comparison, our NZ-sized country has one city iX (just a few local members) and one national IX that is available in three locations (two mandatory (in the same city), one is voluntary). Simple GE or 10GE ports (the biggest ISP's have 2-3 ports per site, Brocade/Extreme), traffic peaks around 25 Gbit/s.
Ragnor: One thing I have found is that local/national performance on Big Time has largely been exceptional. I can max line rate on national traffic even in peak time no worries.
Time to leave the national traffic out from the data cap, right? Cap on the national traffic must have a huge effect on the development of NZ internet services (proven by the fact that TradeMe is the top source of traffic).
I can fully understand why the "Big Time" failed. I know that in the UK they love their plans but in the ICT sector overall the plans have just one function -- to raise the average revenue per user. If one looks at what is happening in other countries, the same size as NZ, the market is moving towards "one size fits all" -- full-rate ADSL or ADSL2+ or 10/10 or 100/10 or something, no caps, a simple monthly fee.
As long as "Big Time" is offered next to the dozen other plans, it will continue to fail. It will attract the "best customers", the customers that already paying the highest price for their access with the existing capped plans. They will use a lot of bandwidth and statistics will never work. To make "Big Time" work they need to drop the cap on the other plans as well to get a mixture of users. Considering the full picture and making transition easier, it might be a good idea to move from capped plans to plans based on speed..