FryUp: No, minister?

The separation timetable is slip-sliding away; as is Woosh's cash

— No, minister? — Woo$h No, minister? Close, but no unlimited performance-incentive cigar for Telecom Wholesale. That's in essence Communications Minister David Cunliffe's reasoning for rejecting Telecom's Amended Separation Plan. Cunliffe says that he was swayed by public submissions to the Amended Plan, and says that while Telecom's revised undertakings came close to meeting his Amending Determination, a few areas of undertakings still need clarification. Right. And so the rusty wheels of bureaucracy grind on ... Telecom now has until March 25 to sort out its amended operational separation plan so that it pleases the minister. Separation Day was supposed to be March 31, on which date Telecom's undertakings become legally binding and enforceable. I see however that there's a "tbc" next to that date in Cunliffe's latest release, which presumably means "to be confirmed". That, and Cunliffe now being "hopeful" that Telecom will respond quickly so that "we may" still be able to meet the March 31 date, points to the separation plan time-table sliding. I'm wondering if we'll see any real unbundling action until 2009 at the earliest. i haven't had official confirmation of it yet, but I am told that Telecom has gone through all it's budgeted capex money for the current fiscal year already. If that's the case, unbundling progress could slow down even further. Would anyone from Telecom be able to enlighten FryUp on this, please? Cunliffe rejects Telecom separation plan Woo$h! If you had a business that lost money — a good chunk'o'change, like millions of dollars — and it did so year after year, would you still carry on operating it? Moreover, would you expect others to invest in it, and lend the business loadsamoney to carry on? Common sense dictates that the answer to the above is an emphatic "no". However, I must be missing something subtly clever because Woosh the wireless provider carries on losing money, yet is able to raise capital with apparent ease. Last year, Woosh lost over $21 million, despite a 77% revenue surge. That didn't deter shareholders, who continued to prop up Woosh to the tune of $48 million in new equity, and $12 million in loans. In November and December last year, some overseas entities called Baytik SPC and Clarity Partners handed Woosh US$3.225 million and NZ$4.2 million. The money can be converted into equity, with four shares for each US$. With some 314 million shares issued, it would seem Baytik and Clarity Partners have taken quite a stake in Woosh. Clarity has been investor in Woosh for a while now. The accumulated deficit for Woosh is $117.36 million, according to the accounts, and there's over $89 million in tax losses that can be offset against future assessable income. It looks like Mercury Telecommunications, aka the internet provider Quicksilver, cost Woosh $2.918 million to buy. If, as was said, at the time Quicksilver had 10,000 customers, Woosh paid $291.80 per capita. Figures apart, Woosh says it's placing its hopes on WiMax rather than betting on local loop unbundling taking place. This sort of sensible, but depends on WiMax taking off overseas so that Woosh has access to cheap, mass-produced equipment; also, Woosh needs radio spectrum to build a WiMax network, and it'll be interesting to see if the company jumps into bed with another wireless provider to supplement the 35MHz of 2.3GHz spectrum it got in the recent auction. Persistent rumours point to Callplus and Woosh merging soon, but there are others too, like Craig Wireless with WiMax spectrum. Where's the technology roadmap for Woosh though? Should the company go down the WiMax route, what will happen to existing customers using the UMTS 3G broadband service? If there's no future in local loop unbundling, what will Woosh do with its 10,000 fixed-line broadband customers that came from Quicksilver? Challenging year' sees Woosh raise more capital Clarity Partners LP "Woosh Wireless is a New Zealand based broadband wireless telecommunications service provider that has a national UMTS spectrum license and is targeting both small and medium sized enterprises as well as residential customers. Partners in Woosh Wireless include Todd Capital and Vodafone New Zealand." XKCD

Cartoon: www.xkcd.com

Robert X. Cringely

It may be Google's data, but it's you they're gonna arrest

Sergey Brin has weighed in on the whole MicroHoo fandango, and not surprisingly he's agin' it. At Google's Lunar X prize announcement last week, Brin told the Associated Press: The internet has evolved from open standards, having a diversity of companies. And when you start to have companies that control the operating system, control the browsers, they really tie up the top websites, and can be used to manipulate stuff in various ways. I think that's unnerving. I'm right there with you, Serge. And when Google legal beagle Dave Drummond talks about "preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation" I just feel good all under. After all, Google is one of the most open companies on the Net. Also: I'm the father of Jamie Lynn Spears' love child, and I give handsome lessons to George Clooney. The problem with that last paragraph is that none of those statements are true. Google is one of those companies that seems completely open — 'here, come in and have a oat bran muffin while we massage your feet' — until you ask them a question about what they do or why they do it. Then they cinch up tighter than a frog's nether regions. For example, try asking Google what it's planning to do with all the user information it collects after it has fully digested DoubleClick? Or why it needs to retain IP addresses for Google searches? Good luck getting any response at all. In fact, Google's biggest privacy accomplishment in the last year has been deciding to hold onto users' IP addresses for only 18 months instead of 24. Gee, I feel more anonymous already. Don't you? Last week, Google's Public Policy Blog posited the argument that IP addresses are not personal information, because they are often shared between machines and users. (Though, personally, my home office has a static IP.) This makes sense until you think about it for 15 seconds. Strangers have also occupied my home address in the past, and probably will do so in the future. But if you ring my doorbell today, I'm the one who answers. And if you look at the server logs of any website I've visited, you'll find my IP address along with a time stamp. In most cases it's a trivial matter of proving that at the very least it was my computer, if not me personally, who was there. If I happen to have been logged into Google at the time, you'll find the whole ball of wax in my search history. If not, the site probably dropped a cookie on my system with a unique ID number in it. Of course, Google won't share this information with anyone... unless they have a court order. Or a National Security Letter. Or maybe the spooks have already tapped into one of the Network Access Points outside the Googleplex. But an IP address is pretty good all by its lonesome. It is after all what the RIAA has used in the 20,000+ lawsuits it's filed against terrorists evil doers file swappers. They take the IP address and demand the subscriber information associated with it from your ISP, who can either hand it over or fight a legal battle with the record companies. Guess which route most of them choose? In the old days, I might have to do something suspicious or even vaguely illegal to warrant such attention. In these days of warrant-free searches and laptops impounded at the borders, who knows what it takes to get flagged by the Feds? I'd rather not find out. And that in turn makes me a more cautious, even paranoid, web surfer. And Sergey? If you really believe in an innovative and open internet, it's time to open up a little yourself. Tell me why you need my IP address information for 18 months. Better yet, give me the choice of whether you can really have it. Because right now, Google feels like a much bigger threat to my privacy than Microsoft and Yahoo combined.

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