Xtra does not see much damage being done to its reputation by a vituperative but unsubstantiated attack on its service and support claiming to be by one of its own helpdesk operators.
The attack, which claims Xtra is reducing port speeds “practically to zero” on “some” peer-to-peer applications, was posted on the Slashdot IT news website using the pseudonym “Anonymous Coward”, the default name for a Slashdot posting.
Spokesman Matt Bostwick says that because the criticism is anonymous, no one can be sure that it is well-founded or comes from the kind of source claimed. "It might be anybody," he says.
If the source proves to be indeed one of Xtra's own staff, the company would be "very concerned", but he could not say last week what action might be taken.
From his description of the actual situation at Xtra, the claims seem to have been at least much exaggerated.
Bostwick says that Telecom’s JetStart service is “choked” and at times of heavy usage it has to be “managed, to ensure the vast majority of our users – those who just want to surf the web, exchange email and download files – get as efficient a service as possible".
Yet only three weeks ago Bostwick was reported as saying bandwidth was not managed in a way that traded P2P bandwidth against other users' capacity, but that the two were controlled separately (Xtra "manages bandwidth" for P2P app use).
Bostwick points out that certain P2P applications, such as exchange of large audio and video files through services like Kazaaa and Morpheus, are already excluded in JetStart’s terms and conditions.
“We do not cut off or throttle individual users' connections,” Bostwick says. “We manage the network.” This, he concedes, may have the effect of markedly reducing the desired bandwidth for a user who wants an unusually large amount.
"Coward" also accuses Xtra of not allowing its support staff to confirm outages on the network promptly to users. “We are not allowed to confirm these until 'the word' comes through -- even when half the country is without service,” the alleged support person says.
Computerworld has noted in the past a considerable lag between a Telecom DSL failure and an automated message on the support line confirming it (JetStream: sometimes off, sometimes on).
“We need to have a network outage confirmed by the appropriate technicians before it is notified [nationwide],” Bostwick says. The apparent outage may be due to a fault in the modems of a few complaining users, or a failure elsewhere on the internet.
“We have to be sure of our facts.”
The poster also alleges that sometimes “we’re still expected to lie to customers” even when the information has been made “public” by way of press releases.
It is possible the Slashdot poster is not aware that a story can appear in a newspaper or on a newspaper’s website without a press release having been responsible.
In further alleging that Xtra is “running out of IP addresses to give to paying customers”, "Coward" may have a valid point. Bostwick concedes that with large demand, the supply of IP addresses has been running “close to capacity”. But another “whole new batch” of numbers has recently been obtained, he says, and is being distributed to points of access around the country.