Free ISP speaks up for Telecom, but woes continue

Another free ISP, surf4nix, has come to the defence of Telecom over the way it has handled the i4free case.

Another free ISP, surf4nix, has come to the defence of Telecom over the way it has handled the i4free case.

Telecom, meanwhile, needs any scrap of good news it can find as its disconnection of i4free because of the way it uses Telecom's 0867 service swells into a PR disaster.

Surf4nix CEO Aaron Brett says his customers "won’t be cut off by Telecom because we are playing by the 0867 rules. In our experience, despite the investment in Xtra, Telecom are not behaving in an anti-competitive manner. They have been very helpful to us, and we are a free ISP."

Last week i4free won an interim injunction requiring Telecom to reconnect its 0867 dial-up service until a court could consider the matter this week. Then, on Friday evening, Justice Judith Potter further ordered Telecom not to restrict i4free's 0867 service to deal with what it said were overloading problems caused by i4free's activities at the Airedale Street exchange.

The judge said she found it "difficult to accept …that Telecom does not have the wit or resources to manage this situation at least until the matter again comes before the court next Tuesday." She extended Tuesday's injunction to order that Telecom could not restrict the traffic of i4free or Freenet without doing to same to other ISPs at the exchange.

IDGNet understands that some customers which rely heavily on the Airedale Street exchange (including Ihug, which has its voice lines there) were warned on Thursday that service was marginal.

It appears that the use of call doversion and number portability in the way i4free gets around the 0867 provisions puts stress on part of the ageing switch at Airedale Street.

Telecom's real fear must surely be if i4free's reading of the 0867 rules is endorsed by the courts - in which case a flood of other ISPs will almost certainly do the same in search of a share of the interconnection revenue that Telecom must pay Clear for calls made to its network. A slice of the two cents a minute interconnect payment is presently i4free's only source of income.

Meanwhile, Ihug has removed its block on its customers accessing the Websites of i4free and FreeNet. The decision, made by the new Ihug board, quickly turned sour on the ISP and may yet result in a complaint being laid with the Internet Society (Isocnz) for breach of the ISP code of conduct.

"No one has yet laid a complaint, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if one came through in the near future," says Isocnz director Sue Leader.

Clause 3.3 of the Code of Practice, Ihug is a signatory, says members should only block traffic "in circumstances where it cannot be avoided" and that members involved in disputes should use the Code's dispute procedures to resolve any differences rather than block traffic. Quite what, if any, penalties can be imposed on a signatory for any breach is not made clear, but Leader says the makeup of the Code's complaints board is being assessed at the moment.

"We've been working on a draft policy and that's gone out to members today for comment."

Ihug's action last week angered many of its Ihug customer.

"I don't care about i4free, I don't have a position on them," says Danny Lineham, an Ihug customer since 1996. "I object to Ihug making a commercial decision to deny me access to that part of the Web. If they'll do it about that, who knows what they'll do it about."

Lineham isn't alone - Michael Hendy, an Australian Ihug user, is also plans to switch.

"The i4free issue, although not affecting me, is a disgrace."

Ihug director Tim Wood says the decision to block i4free was taken at board level.

"That was a board decision. Probably wasn't the best decision, but there you are.

"We were making a statement that i4free is doing a dodgy arbitrage with Clear and that if they get away with it, everyone will be doing it and that will cost millions."

Wood also says Ihug has yet to actually sign the Code of Practice although he says it has every intention to.

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