Users of Telecom's JetStream DSL connections are finding out the hard way that when it comes to billing, Telecom plays hardball.
Users are getting billed for data sent to their connection, for which they pay by the megabyte, regardless of whether their firewall refuses to accept the data or not. Telecom spokesman Andrew Bristol says this isn't happening. A number of users say it is - some to the tune of $600 a month, others even more.
One user was getting email from France and Australia from accounts infected with the Sircam virus. For the best part of a week he was receiving 500MB of data a day, yet Xtra refused to block the IP addresses he provided and insists he will have to pay the bill when it comes in.
Other users are demanding Telecom give them more information about their account. Telecom simply tells users how much they've used each month and offers no detail about the usage.
That's not good enough, says the Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ). In this day and age surely Telecom can provide a great deal more detail to its customers. It's kind of like getting a phone bill that doesn't list calls - something British Telecom did for years, repeatedly denying there was any demand for an itemised bill and whining about how much it would cost to produce.
Telecom says if users want to be secure they need to install a firewall and then everything will be OK. Clearly that's not happening for a number of users. Telecom also says that to be completely safe users should unplug their modems when not in use. That's astonishing coming from a company that touts JetStream as "always on". Perhaps it really means "always on our terms".
Is the Japanese Government Hacking NZ?
Hats off to Nzoom for breaking this story wide open, damn them.
It seems a privately owned medical research facility in New Zealand has been the target of repeated security attacks. Once all the alarms had gone off, a security specialist from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Philip Whitmore, tracked the attempted hack back to a Japanese government agency.
I may have to eat my words about the need for a cyber-threat unit in government. Perhaps we do need some top-level involvement after all.
Intriguingly, Whitmore has been told by his employer he isn't allowed to make any more comments to the media about this or just about anything else.
Meanwhile, the Japanese embassy has refused any comment beyond a flat denial of involvement.
Nzoom has a video interview with Whitmore on its site - follow the link from the story below.
In a pitiful attempt to cash in on the story, IDGNet has a piece from another security expert saying New Zealand's small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) businesses are most at risk from this kind of intrusion as they aren't even conscious of the need for tightened security.
Japanese govt behind spy hacks - Nzoom
GCSB sights not on individuals - IDGNet
BCL Ready to Take on the World
This really will put the rat among the pigeons, to mangle an expression.
BCL, the broadcast arm of TVNZ, sells its services to all the TV channels and radio stations in the country. With nearly 500 transmission sites up and down New Zealand, BCL can reach 100% of the population - more than Telecom can claim with its network.
Here's the really cool part - BCL is going to offer broadband wireless internet access to provincial and rural New Zealand in conjunction with whoever wants to work with them.
This is perhaps the biggest change to New Zealand's telecommunications industry since the government announced its new regulatory regime.
Rural and provincial New Zealand has been completely ignored by just about all the telcos. Telecom says it will have to spend $100 million to upgrade the lines to 14.4Kbit/s, a piteously slow speed, while TelstraSaturn is building only in the three main centres at this stage. Federated Farmers made a submission to the telecommunications inquiry pointing out the dangers of ignoring the rural sector, and noting that if we continue to talk about a knowledge economy or wave or whatever we can't afford to leave out the only sector in New Zealand that makes any money.
BCL won't be looking at providing bandwidth in the main centres. Managing director Geoff Lawson says Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch CBDs are becoming saturated with cable companies fighting to offer bandwidth and it's becoming a commodity market. Instead he's looking to the outlying districts for his user base and, quite frankly, the government is ecstatic. By getting BCL involved in this sector it kills half a dozen birds with one very cheap stone.
BCL's network is already in place - so the only cost is to those who want to put a dish on their roof. The government is keen on bridging the digital divide - and BCL can do that by completely erasing the broadband problem for rural New Zealand. BCL can provide secure VPN (virtual private network) for health providers around the country, making sure country GPs aren't left out of the loop. It can link schools together to provide distance learning opportunities in areas that either can't afford to employ someone or just can't find someone willing to work in the sticks.
Telecom can't complain - it's not like it even wants the rural network in the first place. It keeps issuing statements about how expensive it is to keep the rural users connected. Neither TelstraSaturn or Clear can provide services to the distant parts of the South Island without it costing an arm and a leg, so they'll be happy to work with BCL to reach beyond Telecom's network.
The only danger I can see is that one day government might decide to flog off BCL. Look at the mess selling off the local loop has caused - ten years of mucking about before finally getting a regulator involved. BCL's network is worth its weight in wireless gold - it's a huge asset for those New Zealanders that are considered unprofitable by the telcos and that's good for all of us. Good on ya, BCL.
BCL boss eyes future - IDGNet
Telecomms puts Tuatapere on map - IDGNet
Study shows education leads way - IDGNet
Swain gives BCL a push - IDGNet
Network provides accounting lessons - IDGNet