- Forget unbundling, nationalise!
- Toys, OUT of the cot
- First come, first served
- Forget unbundling, nationalise!
Ah, Telecom. Apparently Telecom would have us believe that it costs around half a billion dollars to pay for those pesky farmers to use the telephone lines. Expensive lot, aren't they?
According to Telecom's telecommunications service obligation (TSO) assessment, the company loses out because it has to abide by several pesky clauses in its contract. The costs incurred for looking after these things are to be assessed and passed on to the other telcos for payment of their share.
With me so far? It seems straightforward and I think fair enough, too. Universal service obligations like this aren't uncommon around the world. In Australia Telecom (in the guise of AAPT) has to pay Telstra a certain amount each year to compensate Telstra for the upkeep of the network that AAPT makes use of.
In New Zealand we've never had to worry about such things in the past because each telco had an interconnection agreement with Telecom and it's widely accepted (by just about everyone except Telecom) that Telecom has been laughing all the way to the bank.
The new regime, however, calls for Telecom to tell the commissioner just how much it costs the company to meet those TSO requirements. They include things like free local calls, rural users not being charged more than urban users and so on.
Last time Telecom came up with a number it was $180 million for the year. That was considered outrageous because Telecom didn't bother to mention how much it makes from owning the local loop. The $180 million figure is only half of the equation if you like.
This time round the figure is an astounding, outrageous, gob-smacking, eye-popping, bone jarring $226.5 million for SIX MONTHS. Telecom would have you believe that the company is being shafted to the tune of more than $450 million a year and that the other telcos will have to fork out for their share.
This is patently absurd, and the telecommunications commissioner has thrown the paperwork back to Telecom and said "do your sums again". Telecom now has until October 18 to come up with new figures, but already it has indicated that they won't be that much different, maybe 5% lower.
Unsurprisingly, the other telcos have thrown up their hands in horror, beating their chests while hooting with outrage. I think they kicked their heels against the floor as well but I'm not absolutely sure on that one so I'll let it past.
TelstraClear went as far as to say it would consider pulling out of New Zealand altogether if it was forced to pay for Telecom to keep its network in order. While that's a ridiculous suggestion, it does raise the question of who is responsible for the network and its upkeep.
If Telecom is losing so much money because of the network, and it wants to renegotiate those terms and conditions that were imposed "forever" when it bought the network, then I have a solution: we'll have it back, thanks.
Imagine if you will a company like BCL owning and maintaining the nation's network, selling access to any and every telco and ISP in the land at wholesale rates.
No more commercial nonsense about network maintenance. No more whining about Telecom dragging its feet with this roll out or that service. No more bickering about interconnection rules. None of it. A level playing field where every telco is allowed to buy space on the network or build its own competing network (as TelstraClear was doing before the Great Telco Crash of '01) as it sees fit.
The government has already smiled benevolently at Air New Zealand, is grinning avariciously at Tranz Rail and could no doubt be encouraged to, what, laugh hysterically at Telecom.
The terms of the old Kiwi Share were quite clear. Telecom could buy the local loop (foolish mistake that was) so long as it offered all those things to the end user forever. Free local calls. Rural users to be charged the same rate as urban. Line rentals not to rise by more than the cost of living each year.
If that's proving too onerous, and it seems it is, then fine, we'll have the network back, thanks. Forget wholesaling, forget unbundling. Nationalise the damned thing.
I would say an argument could be made for excluding all those things from any assessment of cost of ownership because they were part of the purchase price - Telecom got the network in exchange for three magic beans and three eternal promises. Rule them out, I say, and let's see what it really costs.
Or better still, if that's the cost of owning the network, what does Telecom earn from its privileged position as owner of the network? That would make for interesting reading. Telecom has already said that number is too complicated to report.
Plenty of stories on this - including a number of goodies from Stuff's business reporter Marta Steeman. I can only find one to link to, darn you Stuff Archives, and I can't guarantee that will be there much longer.
- Toys, OUT of the cot
Here's one from the "too much caffeine this morning" file.
DVDStation is a website that offers a service to its users. Give us your DVDs and we'll provide you with a back-up of them.
That's right, it's piracy Jim, but not as you know it. The site claims, or rather claimed, to be legitimate and to be offering a legal service, but when asked about it by Bruce Simpson over at online commentary page Aardvark, he got a rather nasty reply.
Simpson wrote a column in which he pointed out the shortcomings of the legal situation when it comes to copying copyrighted work. The site's owner/operator responded by threatening not only legal action but also a denial of service (DoS) attack and a bad case of the can't spell/can't punctuate blues. Simpson had until a certain time to take down the offending column or watch out!
Needless to say, Simpson watched the deadline come and go (no doubt with a whooshing sound) and needless to say his site remained as it was - accessible, untouched, unhindered by "mass packets from fast shells".
All well and good you might say. The DVDStation site now has a lovely front page that includes Simpson's email address, fortunately a freemail Yahoo account that need never be used again, along with another frantic attempt to attract attention which I shall repeat here for your reading pleasure. This is as is, where is, no changes have been made to protect sensitive punctuation glands.
"We have been down for a week due to a narq by the name of Bruce Simpson who is also the Editor of a New Zealand online news site he likes to contact people and tip them off if you want to send this narq and email Click on his name on the above link. He has a big nose and needs to keep it out of other peoples business. You do what you want with his email but don't give the guy a heart attack even though he is an evil bastard."
Ah, youth. To be so young, so bold, so brash, so utterly devoid of clues.
The site is now limited to registered users only, and a terse little email I received today says it has nothing more than a bulletin board where users can discuss copyright material. Oh, I see. Subtle.
Threats of DoS attacks aside, the legal position is quite clear. The copyright act says you can't copy a DVD or a PC game or a PlayStation game or anything else. There is only one exemption in the act and that's for a "computer program". The lawyer I spoke to said it was very carefully worded so as to ensure users can't duplicate copyright material.
Simpson, meanwhile, has responded by forwarding the threats of DoS attacks on his site, thoughtfully hosted in the US, to the FBI.
- First come, first served
As you may recall the new second level domain (2LD) .maori.nz went live a couple of weeks ago.
Domainz, the company that runs the .nz name space, had a technical problem that prevented some customers from buying the names they wanted - several were hotly contested as they were brand new. Some people could buy names and others could not.
Domainz received complaints about the problem from a number of sources and decided that those who were first to try to buy the names should be given them. Those that had the names weren't happy and it all ended up in front of the Domain Name Commissioner (DNC) to sort out.
Legal advice was taken by all concerned and the DNC came back with two interesting points.
Firstly, she agreed with Domainz that since the problem was at Domainz's end of things, it should be sorted out and Domainz's solution of looking at the date stamps on the attempted email applications was the right way out of it.
Secondly, she had no jurisdiction to look at the problem because that part of her job doesn't really take effect until the shared registry system (SRS) goes live later this year.
While there is much muttering and gnashing of teeth over the affair it seems to have been resolved - nobody is taking it any further, at any rate. Domainz has also restructured its terms and conditions to be more explicit about what happens when there's a technical hitch so hopefully in future if this does happen again there are enough pointers that it doesn't get out of hand and end up in the courts.