Telecom is fighting back against Clear’s newly-launched free Internet service provider, zfree, saying the only company making any money from the two cents per minute charge is Clear.
“Effectively Telecom acts as nothing more than a clearinghouse — it takes the two cents and gives it straight to Clear,” says Telecom spokesman, Glen Sowry. “The only people making any money out of it are Clear.”
Telecom began charging users two cents per minute for calls to an ISP that aren’t routed via its 0867-prefix numbers late last year. Clear steadfastly refuses to use the 0867 numbering scheme and rebates its Clear Net customers in the form of credit on their Clear account.
“We don’t have an account with the zfree customers, so we can’t do that for them,” says Clear’s online services director, Ian Sherger. Zfree customers will be charged by Telecom because the calls are to local numbers rather than 0867 numbers.
Clear claims this is beyond its control and Telecom is the one charging zfree customers, however, Sowry says the money collected by Telecom is all passed on to Clear in the form of interconnection agreement charges. The interconnection agreement, whereby each telco pays the other for calls terminating in the other’s network, sees Telecom paying Clear two cents per minute for each zfree call.
Clear’s public affairs manager Ross Inglis says interconnect monies have been used to fund free Internet access around the world and the only market where this hasn’t been happening has been New Zealand.
“That’s changed now, but if Telecom feels so threatened by free Net access why doesn’t it launch one of its own?” asks Inglis.