- Virus blah blah blah
- TSO stupidity
- Virus blah blah blah
Yes, there's another virus. Yes, it's nasty. Yes, we should all lock our doors and windows and hide under the bed covers.
It's the usual "batten down the hatches" story: virus doing the rounds; builds backdoor into infected systems; replicates like a rabbit on a certain pharmaceutical product I can't name here without upsetting the filters but starts with V.
This one hopefully is waning even as we speak and hopefully hasn't caused too much trouble in the wider community. We're all protected, of course. Filters at desktop and at the ISP's end of the connection and firewalls for all along with a better understanding of what to do with attachments (hint: nothing at all) means we're pretty cosy here in New Zealand. The problem is, of course, the intense amount of traffic that the beasties generate - in this case up to 2000 emails a minute coming through Xtra's servers.
When you add in all those automated "you've sent an email that was blocked/rejected/eaten by our servers because it had a virus" messages, you're talking a lot of traffic. Personally I'd be switching these off at a corporate level myself, but what do I know.
And of course there's the inevitable new variant emerging within minutes of the original. This one does much the same kind of damage, should you open it, but also blocks you from seeing most of the major anti-virus vendors' websites. Tricky world, isn't it?
So in effect, email today is that much less useful than it was five years ago. Attachments are to be distrusted not only from people you don't know but more importantly from people you do. You can't trust the sender's name and address because the virus may be spoofing that. When you add in the turmoil created by those morons that send millions of spam a day, you're looking at a medium that is rapidly slipping down the ladder of usefulness.
What's to be done? Beats me. Filters only work if you don't mind not receiving email from strangers who may have put nothing useful in the subject line, and sadly I find those are often the most interesting. Instant messaging is fine for what it's good at - short, quick, one-liners to people I've specifically added to my address book (the ultimate white list). The phone may even burst back into life, but since every press release I'm sent is accompanied by a phone call anyway (to make sure I got it and realise how important it is, apparently), that's not going to change much.
Still, it gives me something to write about that doesn't mention unbundling. That's quite a relief.
- TSO stupidity
While we're not speaking about unbundling, let's instead talk about the TSO. This is the Telecommunications Share Obligation which replaced the Kiwi Share Obligation (KSO) with the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 2001.
The TSO was a secret deal negotiated between Telecom and the government to sort out just what service levels Telecom was expected to offer in this day and age. Telecom managed to get the question of "voice versus data" addressed since it had once upon a time declared that it was under no legal obligation to provide free local calls to anyone calling their ISP.
Part of the TSO agreement was the decision to charge other carriers that use Telecom's network for the upkeep of those customers on the network that aren't considered commercially viable. You know the ones - they live way out in the wops somewhere and expect to have as good a phone service as those inner-city apartment dwellers.
On the face of it, this seems fair enough to me. Telecom's providing a service to these customers that the other telcos are happy to leap frog off. TelstraClear or Ihug couldn't offer tolls or internet service to these commercially non-viable customers (CNVCs) without Telecom's network. So they should pay for the upkeep. Simple really, makes a lot of sense.
Of course, silliness has got in the way. Telecom came out swinging saying it had worked out the costs of providing service to the CNVCs and it was $500 million a year. Apparently Theresa and Simon and the rest of Telecom HQ personally hand craft and deliver each and every phone call in person to these folk.
The commissioner's office knocked that back, of course, and has come up with a figure of around $34 million a year. That's not bad but you have to ask a couple of questions (well I do, anyway). Firstly, why are any of the customers considered non-viable and secondly who gets to pay this money to Telecom and why can't they offer to provide the service themselves. Three. You have to ask three questions.
The first question is telling. There are, apparently, 65,000 customers more or less who are deemed non-viable. I find that really hard to believe because the commissioner is required to look at how much it costs to provide service to these people over a theoretical efficient network. Not Telecom's current in-the-ground network but a theoretical one based on a model the commission comes up with.
So to provide service at the level specified in the TSO (let me tell you, it's low - forget broadband, we're talking slow for dial-up: 14.4kbit/s), you could safely offer to build a cellphone network to deliver service. That's got to be dirt cheap.
Unfortunately the commission doesn't see it that way and hasn't produced a cellular model. It's produced a dig-trenches, lay cable, build exchanges model. Apparently that's the most efficient network available to the commission's way of thinking. This is rubbish.
So we have these customers and those companies that use Telecom's network have to pay for their share of the upkeep. The costs have been divided up between those eight largest players that use the network based on whether they offer full service or not (data and voice).
So as you would expect, TelstraClear, Ihug, CallPlus and a number of others are paying for the network upkeep. However, the biggest payee, after Telecom's share, of course, is Vodafone.
Why Vodafone? What on earth does it care for the Telecom copper network? Well, that was my question as well and, oddly enough, Vodafone's. Vodafone has been stung for the largest share of the payments - around $14 million a year - because it has the largest revenue. The commission doesn't seem to care whether or not Vodafone makes use of Telecom's network for that revenue, as I understand it.
Vodafone understandably isn't terribly happy about all this. What really rubs salt into the wound is the idea that Vodafone is subsidising Telecom's network in areas where Vodafone's network is up and running.
That's right - Vodafone has to pay Telecom to compete with Vodafone in these areas. Isn't that amazing. Vodafone has offered to supply Telecom with capacity in and around these CNVCs but Telecom is disinclined to take it up on the offer.
The Telecommunications Carriers Forum has put together a draft resolution that it would present to government suggesting that if these non-viable customers exist they should be opened up to offers of network connection by any provider. The forum was set to take this to a final resolution late last year but Telecom has, as I understand it, done a swift about face and won't support the move. Odd that - if these CNVCs do cost $34 million, or worse, $500 million, as Telecom suggests, wouldn't it want them parcelled up and bundled off?
I shall stop now. I need to have a soothing cup of tea and a wee lie down. This surely isn't the telecommunications environment envisaged by the inquiry, by government, by the industry or by the commentators. Something has gone badly wrong with our brave new world and it needs fixing soon.