Telecom says it will continue to include JetStream Starter customer numbers in its tally on residential broadband despite defining JetStream Starter in its own advertising as "not broadband". Why? Because the simple truth of the matter is that JetStream Starter accounts for nearly three quarters of Telecom's broadband residential user base, meaning the true figure for broadband uptake in New Zealand is only 13,000 customers.
This is appalling on many levels. Firstly, despite having one of the highest residential internet usage rates in the OECD, we have the lowest broadband usage rate. That says to me that something's not working. Secondly, the 128kbit/s connections the majority of the country’s DSL users subscribe to are simply not givng them the full benefit of broadband access. That's bad because without broadband we're going to be left behind by the rest of the developed world. Thirdly, fudging the figures in the way Telecom has been doing is bad news as we try to get unbundling brought into play. Claiming more broadband customers than it actually has strengthens its argument that unbundling isn’t needed to boost uptake.
Fortunately, all of this can be remedied in an easy-to-implement way: upgrade every JetStream Starter customer connection from 128kbit/s to 256kbit/s. Keep the caps the same, keep the back-end infrastructure the same. ISPs already pay for the bandwidth their customers use, so that wouldn't affect Telecom much, if at all. ISPs would see customers more quickly reaching their traffic caps, which may need looking at in the long-term. But for now it would mean we actually do have 48,000 broadband users instead of just 13,000.
Is that likely to happen? No. Why not? Because Telecom seems hell bent on restricting access to broadband while at the same time touting its benefits. Customers will be encouraged to move to JetStream Home services, which run at 256kbit/s but are capped at 500MB a month at the cheapest rate. Telecom insists that more than half its customers use less than 500MB a month but, frankly, with a 256kbit/s connection, you can send and receive over 73GB in a month. The potential for bill shock is, well, shocking.
If Telecom wants to offer a fast narrowband -- 128kbit/s—service, that’s fine. But don’t pretend that it’s broadband. It’s about like counting cordless phone users as mobile subscribers - there would be outrage at such a claim, and rightly so. Telecom’s stated target of 100,000 broadband subscribers by the end of next year will be discredited if it includes these 128kbit/s customers. Do the right thing, Telecom. Dump the numbers from your broadband count or increase the speed of the service.