- When the web went to war
- Telco Act a success
- Google says no to US government query snooping
When the web went to war
An invisible hand is applying steady pressure to the back of the head ... nose is getting closer to the grindstone, and look what a beautiful day it is outside. Oh dear, the holidays must be over then.
What happened while we were out? I don’t wish to alarm you but World Wide Web War I broke out. Eric Baum, proprietor of ebaumsworld.com annoyed the You’re The Man Now Dog crowd, purveyors of internet memes, by apparently “borrowing” content from their site and passing it off as his.
That was a bad move. During the holidays the internet is choc-a-bloc with bored teenagers who are armed with HTML and image editors, plus lots of time on their hands and no need to sleep. Just before midnight on January 7 the YTMN Dogs of War and associates from other meme sites were let slip and vented their fury in the ebaumsworld.com forums. By midnight ebaumsworld.com was down, having crashed under the weight of the distributed denial of service attack.
The digital jihad spilt over into meatspace as well, when a rude note was taped onto the door of Ebaum’s offices, photographed and the picture published on the web.
Silliness aside, there may be legal repercussions for those who took part in the DDoS attack and that sort of behaviour is clearly wrong and shouldn’t be encouraged. I think everyone, including Max Goldberg who runs ytmnd.com, underestimated what a large internet mob was capable of.
My favourite song of all times!
Scored 2,632 before my fingers broke…
Telco Act a success
Not a lot of people know this, but the Telecommunications Act of 2001 wasn’t written to ensure phone and network customers in New Zealand would get the best deal possible from a variety of competing providers.
Instead, it was craftily designed to keep Telecom’s revenues and share price steady by protecting it from competition.
You may think that’s exaggeration, but the evidence is clear: the Unbundled Bitstream Service (UBS) that the government preferred instead of local loop unbundling is a money-loser for ISPs in Telecom’s commercial form. They have to offer it, because otherwise their customers will go to Xtra for broadband. However, when the pools of profitable dial-up customers which subsidise UBS dry up, it’s likely many ISPs will go to the wall. Aussie telco analyst Paul Budde said in his December newsletter that he expects there will be no more than ten ISPs left in NZ thanks to the regulatory environment, and Ihug’s GM Mark Rushworth agrees. Ihug hopes to capitalise on this forced consolidation through buying up failed ISPs but that’s another story.
Over the holidays, Telecom also decided to jack up the line rental and wiring maintenance fee for customers. Everyone else puts up their prices, so why shouldn’t Telecom? The Telecommunications Act says it can put up the line rental by as much as the Consumer Price Index, so it did. Now we can look forward to paying $42.20 a month for our lines with “free local calling” thrown in which is 5.9% dearer than last year.
Most of the line rental is likely pure profit for Telecom. Until last year, you could opt to pay 20¢ for local calls (up to two hours, if I remember right) and the line rental dropped to $25 a month. In Australia, Telstra has set the charge for its fully unbundled lines to A$30 a month nationwide; however, it earlier proposed A$13 month for lines in the metropolitan areas and A$100 in remote places. In Wellington and parts of Christchurch where TelstraClear is able to provide local lines, Telecom somehow is able to keep the line rental at $34.80 per month and still make a profit.
Even TelstraClear isn’t able to play the regulatory game as well as Telecom. The Smales Farm denizens were given a Regulated UBS (RUBS) last year that did have some improvements over the commercial one from Telecom. It was cheaper, had faster downstream and no latency-inducing interleave set by default for instance.
But, RUBS still had a strangled 128kbit/s upstream, no technical specifications and quality monitoring and wouldn’t be ready until June. What’s more, Telecom didn’t want TelstraClear to have the RUBS, and said it would challenge the Commission’s determination in court.
With a court date set for April, TelstraClear was looking at remaining out of the broadband market for perhaps a further six months and caved. Freeth and Co struck a deal with Telecom instead and got a slower and dearer commercial UBS (CUBS) with slightly improved margins for other wholesale products plus $17.5 million thrown in as a sweetener. It doesn’t mean customers will get cheaper phone and data connections however, only that TelstraClear will be able to come up with slightly more viable product bundles than it could before.
The picture is clear: whereas telco customers in the rest of the world face the difficult task of choosing faster and better services from an increasing amount of competing providers, New Zealanders can look forward to paying more to Telecom for yesteryear’s technology. From that point of view, the Telecommunications Act is a success and there is no reason for the minister of communications, David Cunliffe, to tamper with it much. Telecom’s share price is safe for the foreseeable future.
Not even Chuck Norris could have roundhouse-kicked Telecom’s competitors senseless the way our regulatory environment has.
Google says no to US government query snooping
A very disturbing development has come to the fore in the US. Claiming it wants to defend the Children Online Protection Act against a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, the US Department of Justice has asked Google and other search engines to hand over information on how users search for pornography on the internet.
Google is resisting the DoJ but other search engines have given in already. This means there’s a real risk of people’s queries for other things than pornography being recorded and monitored in the future thanks to the precedent. Think for a second what the consequences of that could be and let’s hope Google doesn’t cave in to the DoJ’s demands.