Fryup: Telecom's coffers; welcome back

Telecom's coffers; welcome back Mr Kotter.

Telecom's coffers

Surely they're overflowing already. Do we really need to have yet another price hike for the maintenance of the line to our homes? Apparently so. Over the years I must have called Telecom on countless occasions about my line. I say countless but what I actually mean is never. So for my zero calls I pay about $40 a month. Telecom is clearly doing a great job of keeping everything flowing so smoothly.

The problem, of course, was not with Telecom as much as it was with the Kiwi Share obligation that entertaining document that was written when politicians thought computers were a silly idea and only used the phone to book lunch at Bellamy's. (Okay, so that hasn't really changed, judging by deputy PM Jim Anderton's recent comments about the "few" using the internet ruining phone calls for the rest of "us".)

The Kiwi Share demanded that Telecom offer free voice calls to residential customers and that the line rental costs increase by no more than the cost of living each year. This was written before the internet came along and before anyone outside the telco sector realised just how huge the profit margins could be. Since that day, Telecom has raised the cost of the monthly line rental by the maximum it's allowed regardless of the actual costs of running such a network.

Telecom has had a fun time of it over Christmas on top of the rental price hike, which it blamed on internet users while conveniently not mentioning that it owns the country's largest ISP (which doesn't exactly discourage internet use and does actually make money), it also managed to negotiate a replacement to the Kiwi Share.

The Telecommunications Service Obligation Deed (called the TSO and not the T-SOD, which I thought a much better abbreviation) makes it clear that Telecom isn't allowed to charge residential users for calls to the internet.

Telecom had argued that it wasn't charging for calls to ISPs only out of the goodness of its heart and maintained that it could, if it felt like, start including a per-minute charge.

That Telecom can't charge for local calls is good news, but that's pretty much all there is. Telecom gets to decide which numbering schemes we'll all dial in on something it went to war with Clear over (remember 0867?) and something that is sure to shade future interconnection negotiations.

Then there's the clause which says the free calls to the internet are locked in to today's level of technology, so you can forget about voice over IP (VoIP) over your dial-up connection - Telecom won't allow that to happen any time soon.

But my favourite is the move to ensure Telecom provides internet access to 99% of New Zealanders, which is a great idea. Sadly, Telecom only has to provide 14.4kbit/s to 95% of us and 9.6kbit/s to the rest (that's the speed of a cellphone today). To do this will apparently cost $100 million a bill that will no doubt be paid for one way or another by us.

This is nonsense. If Telecom hasn't maintained its network in regional areas, as it's supposed to do, then it should be made to do so out of its own profits. And anyone who thinks 14.4 is a suitable speed for the majority of people in New Zealand simply hasn't understood the whole knowledge economy thing.

The telco commissioner is here to save us from ourselves I just hope he has the tools to do the job. It looks to me as though he'll be severely curtailed by the new TSO before he gets to his desk.

Telecom price rise blamed on internet boom - NZ Herald

Free internet access limited in Telecom's new Kiwi Share deal - NZ Herald

Welcome back Mr Kotter

And how was your new year break? Get up to anything exciting?

Of course, some haven't had a holiday and my hat goes off to you all. I, on the other hand, spent an entertaining three weeks without my PC after its hard drive clacked its way into the history books just before the end of term.

Three weeks without a PC no email, no surfing, no games. Normally I'm at the beach when that happens and don't mind a jot, but this year I was at home surrounded by potential chores. Should I paint the shower or tidy the basement? To hell with it all, I said, and I planted some tomatoes. Good fun was had by all, especially once I added lettuce and basil and snail bait.

Can I just say to each and every one of you who sent me an email over the Christmas break (all 840-odd of you): get a life.

But now we're back at our desks, ready to face another summer of glumly staring out the window at the real summer (not you Wellington), listening to the children laugh and shout and run around while we slave away next to a humming Pentium-powered room heater. Oh the humanity.

So what will this year bring for us Friars? What will 2002, that most even of years, provide in the way of entertainment and amusement? I haven't the foggiest, but that's part of the fun really. Welcome back.

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