— Unbundling, take two
Tiny trapeze troupers
FryUp receives some odd requests from time to time, but clips of South Pacific Circus Midgets? What to make of that? We aim to tra-pleaze though, so here's The Magic Circus of Samoa. They were apparently on TV One's Good Morning today, but I couldn't find the video on the state broadcaster's site. You'll have to make do with the usual YouTube instead.
Unbundling, take two
After last year's big announcement in August that local loop unbundling had finally arrived in New Zealand, we all waited. And waited. Where were our ADSL2+ and VDSL connections from Kordia/Orcon and Ihug? I've heard a few muted comments from some triallists of the faster broadband over copper, but it's not until now, seven months after the original announcement, that Orcon has come up with retail products featuring unbundled phone lines.
I'm hoping to trial Orcon's ADSL2+ service soon, but my initial impressions are that the monthly data caps are quite low, 10 to 25GB, although you can add more data as you go. The service options aren't that cheap either, starting at $80 a month for a broadband-only plan without voice, going to $120 a month for the top of the line offering. This is due to the high pricing set by the Commerce Commission, unfortunately.
What's good though is that you don't have to sign up for a lengthy contract, like the 12 to 24 month ones that telcos are fond of. Also good, the cheap voice calls nationwide and internationally. I was surprised that Orcon hasn't added mobiles into the unbundling soup. The state-owned ISP has an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) deal with Vodafone, and talked that up a great deal last year. We're still to see any mobile offering from Orcon though, and I wonder if Vodahug won't pip them to that particular post.
Orcon's CEO Scott Bartlett was sharply critical of the Commerce Commission's unbundling determination that means Telecom only has to make fifteen exchanges per quarter available to other service providers. He's probably right to be critical too: while one should appreciate that solving the technical issues when it comes to installing heterogeneous gear into exchanges and arranging backhaul for it takes time and effort, the unbundled broadband ball was set in motion two years ago. We have precious little to show for it so far.
Another curious thing is the complete silence from Telecom on its ADSL2+ offering. There have been trials but where is the faster broadband service as promised by Theresa Gattung and Telecom in 2005?
As Bartlett pointed out at the launch yesterday, other countries have a five to seven year headstart on us when it comes to unbundling. With overseas unbundling case studies and examples available to follow, you would think our regulator would have a real sense of urgency so that we catch up to some degree at least, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
Vodafone for instance, tells me that VDSL2+ is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire at the moment, waiting for the regulator to act. Telecom hasn't yet produced its interference management plan according to Vodafone, and wants to make the service asymmetric. Vodafone wants to provide a symmetric service, with up to 50Mbit/s in both directions, instead.
In other words, the New Zealand broadband scenario centres around what could've been as per usual.
There's money in them thar social networking hills, if not gold. America Online or AOL, is plonking down what amounts to over a billion smackers in NZ currency for UK site Bebo. In cash, too. It may sound like a huge amount, but consider News Corp's purchase of MySpace: that site went for US$580 million, but it's now reckoned to be worth in the region of US$15 billion.
For AOL, which despite Time Warner's backing has fallen behind the likes of Google in the internet stakes, Bebo will bring in some 40 million members around the world. These Bebo-addicts ogle on average 78 pages a day each on the site. I wonder if that's right, actually. Seventy-eight pages of Beboring stuff a day? Not even Sartre could've come up with such an infernal vision of human suffering.
Excellence Awards are Open
And now an unashamed plug for Computerworld's annual awards. Did you done something special in ICT in 2007? Get it recognised!
The Computerworld Excellence Awards, celebrating excellence in the use if ICT, are open for entries.
Pentagon hacks and Google Maps
I have this nosy but absent-minded Uncle. He likes to paw through my emails, peruse my web history, and tap my phones. But when it comes to protecting his own, more important secrets, he's mostly clueless. Case in point: When alleged Chinese Hackers broke into the Pentagon's email system last June, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sloughed it off as no big deal – nothing to see here, happens every day, please move along. Now it turns out that the hack was a wee bit more serious than Gates let on. GovernmentExecutive.com quotes Dennis Clem, CIO for the office of the defense secretary, talking about the hack at a federal tech conference last week: "This was a very bad day," said Clem during a panel discussion at the Information Processing Interagency Conference Tuesday. The breach continues to pose a threat, he added. "We don't know when they'll use the information they stole, [which was] an amazing amount, [including] processes and procedures that will be valuable to adversaries." And here's how they did it, per Federal Computer Week: The hackers took advantage of a known Microsoft software vulnerability and sent spoof e-mail messages with the names of staff in Clem’s division. When the messages were opened, the code sent back the user names and passwords, which allowed access to the network. In follow-up forensics, Clem discovered that the hackers accessed sensitive information, which they encrypted as they transmitted it back to their sites. So the Pentagon gets 0wned via what sounds like an ordinary spear phishing attack, and we're supposed to trust our government to sift all of our email, decide which ones are from the terrorists, and leave the rest of us alone. Got it. In related news: The Pentagon has asked Google to pull images of US military installations from the "Street View" feature in Google Maps, and Google has complied. Apparently the images showed enough info on how to get in and out of each base to worry the commanders. I understand one area of special interest was an Air Force test center in southern Nevada better known to X Files fans as "Area 51." The military banned all ---------- ------- -------- ------- --------- ------------- [editors note: this material has been redacted for your protection] ------------- ----------- ------------- ------- ------------ --------- ----- ---------- --------- --------------- ------- ------ --------- ------- ----------- ---------- Paris Hilton, Rudy Guiliani, and a bucket full of ferrets. Needless to say, the Pope was certainly surprised.