Far from being thrilled at the Commerce Commission's decision to take Telecom to court over its 0867 move, ISPs around the country are annoyed that it's taken so long.
“If the Commerce Commission thought it was anti-competitive it was anti-competitive at the bloody start,” says Manawatu Internet Services’ director George Annear. It’s a sentiment echoed by a number of other ISPs.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money and effort converting and now the commission comes up with this," says Hamilton-based Wave Internet’s manager, Wayne Attwell.
"In the first place we said to them 'why don’t you do something', and they didn’t want to do anything.”
He believes the commission is getting stirred up finally because of the advent of free Internet services and the problems they’ve had with Telecom and 0867.
“All of a sudden because Freenet and Zfree have a bit of leverage, the commission is taking a soft view and saying ‘we’ll piggy-back off the back of it’.”
As for the fine that could be imposed on Telecom if the court finds in favour of the commission, many ISPs are less than impressed.
“For the business it gained over that period, $5 million is a slap on the wrist,” says the head of Auckland-based Attica, Wayne Toddum.
According to Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) chief executive Ernie Newman, the commission's decision shows the government's telecomms inquiry is on the right track.
“This proves that we need an institution that can be the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom.”
The inquiry’s draft report suggests appointing a commissioner to oversee industry needs and issues and Newman says that kind of office would speed up the whole process of deliberation.
“If the commissioner had been on the field of play when 0867 was first mooted I believe it would have been stopped in its tracks in the first week.”
Attica’s Toddum, agrees.
“I think it would definitely speed up the process, but if you look at the Australian market, nearly everything ends up going to arbitration.”
He says that's preferable to having every decision going through the court system.
Telecommunications Minister Paul Swain would not comment directly on either the commission’s 0867 decision or the inquiry, except to say he has faith in the inquiry’s ability to sort out the industry as a whole.