Reborn ISP group bends Minister's ear

ISPANZ wants local loop unbundling - just like it did in 1996

The lobby group formed by most of New Zealand's ISPs met IT Minister David Cunliffe in Wellington last week to press the Government for better broadband offerings.

The group, which has settled on the name ISPANZ (the Internet Service Providers' Assocation of New Zealand), met in Wellingon on Wednesday. Cunliffe, who attended the meeting briefly, says he thinks it's useful for the industry to speak with one voice about the issues it faces, and that it will make his job easier.

He adds that ISPANZ appears to have a broader agenda than just Telecom-bashing, and promises to keep his door open. However, Cunliffe says he won't necessarily agree with all that ISPANZ says. He hopes ISPANZ will engage with the Government's Digital Strategy and also enter the debate on content provision.

However, ISPANZ sees local loop unbundling as the best way to get New Zealand broadband uptake to move upwards in the OECD rankings.

David Diprose, Ihug's manager of industry and regulatory affairs, has been elected as ISPANZ's spokesman. The group comprises 22 ISPs; listed are Quickernet, Maxnet, Ihug, PCnet, Clive Wilson Computers, Actrix, Callplus, Inspire Net, Wise Net, Igrin, Compass Net, Quicksilver, Snap Internet, Plain Communications, Globe Net, Quik Internet, ICONZ, Tasman Solutions and Earthlight Communications. In addition to this list, two ISPANZ members say they prefer to remain anonymous.

PlaNet is notably absent. Diprose says PlaNet director Alan Marston refused to abide by the rules of the group and is no longer a member of it.

Diprose says ISPANZ will lobby the Government and the Commerce Commission to push through legislative changes for the wholesale Unbundled Bitstream Service DSL provided by Telecom New Zealand. The group wants lower pricing, faster downstream and upstream speeds, and retail parity for provisioning and service levels, according to Diprose.

The ISP grouping started off as ISPAG, or the Internet Service Providers' Action Group, in July, when Computerworld first reported the group's existence and agenda.

The group's new name carries some historical baggage. The first incarnation of ISPANZ was formed in 1996, to counter what was then seen as predatory pricing by Telecom's Xtra ISP. ISPANZ version 1.0 was formed by 40 ISPs at a Wellington meeting in August that year. The first ISPANZ chose as its logo the "BOHICA" (bend over here it comes again) dog and engaged in a activist campaign featuring advertisements in daily newspapers, faxes to Telecom's customers and Commerce Commission submissions. It is believed that version of ISPANZ ceased to exist in 1998.

Diprose says Cunliffe has also received a letter that sets out ISPANZ's complaints about Telecom's current wholesale offering. The letter also contains the recommendation that New Zealand implements local loop unbundling (LLU), as it has benefited broadband competition in the rest of the world.

However, for the time being, Diprose says that improving the terms for Telecom's wholesale UBS is the best solution.

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