Clear Communications describes it as the last gasp of a monopoly power, but Telecom is refusing to comment on claims made by Clear about its new interconnection agreement “terms and conditions”.
“They wanted us to promise not to go to the Commerce Commission to complain about them. We had to agree to give them 48-hours to approve our media releases and we’d have to agree to pay their bills even when they’re wrong,” says Clear’s general manager of corporate affairs, Kevin Millar.
Clear’s agreement with Telecom, which governs the ability of customers on one network to call or connect with customers on the other’s, has expired and the two telco giants have been re-negotiating the deal for “some months” according to Millar. He says he was surprised to learn of Telecom’s latest announcement through the media.
“They’d faxed us on Saturday afternoon ... after I found out about the announcement through the media we discovered this fax in the office.”
The new interim agreement, according to Millar, takes effect “by us continuing to be in business today we are deemed to have agreed to their terms”. He says Clear is refusing to accept Telecom’s terms and conditions and instead will offer to extend the existing interconnect agreement out until such time as a new agreement can be reached. Clear is happy to backdate whatever changes have been made to the end of the old agreement.
Telecom has a different story.
“We’re not going to get into the detail of it all as we are in negotiations and it’s a commercial decision between two carriers,” says Telecom’s public affairs manager, Martin Freeth.
“We’ve been negotiating and we’d reached the point where the agreement would expire and we took the pro-active step of making an offer to Clear of making sure they had their continuity of service.”
Freeth says it is Clear that has rejected the offers made by Telecom and he is frustrated by the “debating in the media”.
“I would like to say that we’ve taken the unusual step of announcing that Clear is in arrears to us to the tune of $19 million, and that’s not something we would announce lightly.”
In a written statement, released on Saturday afternoon, Telecom claimed Clear’s “tardiness in making interconnection payments over a prolonged period has been a real impediment to our relationship and Telecom is not prepared to let this problem continue”.
Freeth also would not confirm whether or not the interconnection costs would be increased by 70% or even more, but says the agreement that was signed a year ago included “some one-off elements by way of settling issues that were outstanding at the time” and that the pricing “was never intended to extend beyond that contract.”
“These are terms that Vodafone and TelstraSaturn are happy with and Clear is seeking preferential treatment over others.”
The new telecommunications regulatory regime should be in place by the end of the year and will include provision to fast track any decision on interconnection agreements.