Byzantine broadband baffles

Perhaps there is someone at Telecom congratulating him or herself for having manoeuvred the New Zealand broadband market into a state of total confusion, but they should seriously consider stepping back and consider the severe public relations damage the strategy is causing.

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- Byzantine broadband baffles

- Bit rot Microsoft’s undoing

- Who Dunn it? HP sauce thickens

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Byzantine broadband baffles

Perhaps there is someone at Telecom congratulating him or herself for having manoeuvred the New Zealand broadband market into a state of total confusion, but they should seriously consider stepping back and consider the severe public relations damage the strategy is causing.

The latest story is that Telecom is charging its wholesale providers more than it is selling broadband plans for during its retailer, Xtra. That’s obviously a no-no in any other jurisdiction than New Zealand — in countries where the regulator has actual powers, this would not happen.

However, the story is much more complicated than it appears. Telecom’s wholesale providers are up in arms over the pricing of the Regulated UBS (RUBS). This is the first time after the introduction of Unbundled Bitstream Service in 2003 that such broadband is made available, incidentally. Due to the expensive, slow and complex nature of the present regulation, only Telecom’s Commercial proxy UBS (CUBS) has been available until now, and people often confuse the two. At Computerworld, we have repeatedly asked the Commerce Commission why Telecom is allowed to call its commercial product UBS when they are not related at all; Telecom models its commercial service on the regulated variant it says, but it doesn’t have to do this, and either way, they’re not quite the same as the Commission has pointed out.

Telecom also has a second set of plans, which are modelled on its retail ones. This is called Wholesale Broadband Service, or WBS. It’s not true wholesale in the usual meaning of the word, but plans sold at a trade discount.

Is your head spinning yet? Wait, it gets worse: the cost of the full-speed downstream/128kbps upstream RUBS is $28.04 plus GST. This is up from the earlier TelstraClear determination, which set it at $26.19. Why? Well, someone at the Commerce Commission decided to review the pricing, which is based on a retail average of all plans, minus a discount. At the time when the determination was being processed, Telecom had introduced some higher-cost retail plans with faster upstream and larger data caps, so the Commission included those and … that bumped up the wholesale price for RUBS by $1.85 before GST.

Telecom has a policy of “flowing through” RUBS to CUBS even though it doesn’t have to, so the wholesale cost for the FS/128k plan as per the determination will be the same $28.04.

The problem now is that Telecom will launch its cheapest retail plan at $29.95 including GST. Taking off GST at 12.5% and the 16% discount, the wholesale cost should be $22.95.

In other words, Telecom is substantially undercutting the wholesale price. But, is it that simple? Telecom’s $29.95 plan only includes 200MB of data per month, but the CUBS one follows the established arrangement where providers pay for the backhaul and 50¢ per GB over 4GB aggregate usage.

Wholesale providers would be silly to come up with a CUBS-based product with only 200MB usage and a fast downstream; this makes the broadband plan usable for only a few days every month.

The long and short of the above is of course that the whole scheme is silly. It’s been deliberately convoluted since the Commerce Commission backflipped on unbundling in 2003 and ensured that wholesalers remain handicapped compared to Telecom’s retail operation. You would think that a regulator whose aim is to foster competition and to look after the public good would not have gone along with Telecom and tied together such a Gordian Knot but scandalously enough, it did.

Looking at the present mess, it becomes abundantly clear that Telecom cannot be both a wholesaler and retailer. Operational separation is Alexander’s sword here, giving the wholesale division has an incentive to come up with simpler products for resale offered on the same, fair terms for everyone – including Xtra.

Next Tuesday will see the Telecom unveil its new retail and wholesale plans and things could change in such a short time. Keep an eye out for Monday’s issue of Computerworld, for the detail on the pricing information. The wholesale versus retail pricing issue isn’t the only snag coming up either.

- ISPs criticize Telecom wholesale plans

- Telecom 'abusing position' with cut-price internet

Bit rot Microsoft’s undoing

“Sir! Incoming zero-day attack!”

“Oh my god, ensign … and without warning too!”

I love US terminology, because it’s wonderfully dramatic yet total gibberish in many ways. You can’t for instance anticipate, but have to be proactive instead. There is no future either, just going forward. Likewise, you have “zero day” attacks. What this means, I think, is that you don’t get the customary amount of warning before the malware authors deploy exploits. I’ve seen One and Two Day attacks mentioned, but no Half-A-Day or Couple Of Minutes ones for some reason.

On a more serious note, the latest VML security issue is interesting. It’s bad news so you should take precautions against it (I’ve put together a summary of measures on my blog linked below), but at the same time so unnecessary.

VML or Vector Markup Language is a feature that Microsoft touted as a W3C standard, but which the rest of the world ignored. I’ve looked, but while I’ve found technical descriptions of VML, I’ve not been able to find a single site or application that uses it. Maybe there are ones, but the relative dearth I’ve noticed points to it being… not needed.

Nevertheless, IE6 and from what I can tell IE7 too, come with VML support, ditto most apps in Microsoft’s Office suite. It’s clearly been left there to rot and now Microsoft’s users are paying the price.

This is why I like OpenBSD’s approach of constantly vetting the code and removing unnecessary parts. Windows is huge and complex, so why make it harder to maintain by keeping parts that aren’t needed or used in it? I understand that Vista has been designed in a more modular fashion to prevent this type of “bit rot”, but what about XP users?

- Explorer hit by new zero day attack

- Techsploder: Internet Explorer VML Zero-Day exploit protective measures summary

- Introduction to Vector Markup Language (VML)

- Microsoft Security Advisory (925568)

Vulnerability in Vector Markup Language Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Who Dunn it? HP sauce thickens

Hewlett-Packard was doing so well, wiping the floor with Dell. Now, however, its board is going to hell. (That’s figuratively speaking of course, but it rhymes nicely.)

Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who stepped in after Carleton Sneed Fiorina (just Carly will do) was ousted is on her way out, together with directors Thomas Perkins and George Keyworth. They’ve resigned over the “pretexting” scandal, in which Hewlett-Packard used private investigators to obtain phone records and other information from journalists, through deceptive practices.

However, it gets worse for HP: CEO Mark Hurd is now being dragged in front of a US House of Representatives subcommittee to testify. It would seem Hurd knew about the “pretexting” too. Tough times ahead for HP, in other words, but as the Reuter’s story below asks, aren’t other corporates doing the same?

- Embattled Dunn and Keyworth step down at HP

- HP CEO to testify to House panel on leak scandal

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