It's official - Clear may have been sold. Actually, there's nothing official, but the silence is quite deafening. An industry analyst says Clear Communications, owned lock, stock and branding by British Telecom, may have been sold to a consortium made up of Jump Investments, of which merchant bankers Michael Fay and David Richwhite are part, Todd Corporation and US infrastructure investment firm Berkshire Partners, which has already invested in Tranz Rail.
BT has been keen to flog off Clear ever since it balanced its chequebook and discovered most of its loose change had slipped down the back of the sofa. Buying all that expensive UK spectrum for third-generation cellphone services had suddenly seemed like a really, really bad idea. The only way out was to sell off its Asia Pacific interests and retreat back beyond the Suez Canal. It's never had an easy time of it in Australia, so that's no great loss, but BT is rumoured to have paid around $1 billion for Clear, which it took complete ownership of in June 1999.
Jump and Berkshire have had dealings in the past - Berkshire is an investor in Crown Castle, a company that owns and operates cellphone network infrastructure, such as the cell towers themselves. Jump owns 30% of the Australian Crown Castle operation.
Rumours about the deal price are also rife - it's either $300 million or $450 million depending on which whisper you follow, but nobody is clear whether that's for a controlling interest, for all of the company or just for a toe in the water. BT is expected to keep some involvement in Clear for the time being.
Quite where this leaves Clear's other suitor, TelstraSaturn, is unclear (to stretch a pun to breaking point). TelstraSaturn was rumoured to be in talks with BT months ago over a deal but baulked at the asking price. Now it's building its own network and one of its parent companies, Austar, is having problems of its own in Australia.
Stories on the latest rumours are scarce on the ground, perhaps because all the players are keeping schtum. Stuff runs a piece from NZPA on the story, and bleats on about how it "broke the story" in June, albeit without any detail worth mentioning. Other than that, there's a deathly silence. Listen carefully and you may hear the sound of money changing hands.
Stuff tries to sound convincing, comes off sound whiny
Internet Society becomes InternetNZ
In a fit of brand awareness the Internet Society (ISOCNZ) has dumped its name, voted to change its chair into a president and elected new officers for InternetNZ.
The annual general meeting saw chair Peter Dengate Thrush and secretary Frank March retire from council life. Members began debating a raft of changes to the constitution which included renaming the chair as president, the creation of a vice president to help spread the workload and the move to have members elect the officers instead of councillors. It was past midnight when the meeting wrapped up, and it was decided constitutional issues would be settled by an email vote. That vote, completed this week, sees every motion adopted except one outlawing proxy votes - it was felt proxy voting would be unnecessary once electronic voting was brought in, but the membership voted to retain the ability to get someone else do their dirty work for them. Proxy votes have played a major part in ISOCNZ in the past and it looks like they'll be around for some time to come, at least until the membership gets used to online voting. The changes that were introduced, which will take effect from next year, also include term limits for officers of InternetNZ and a maximum size for council, locked in at 20 members.
InternetNZ swaps chair for president - IDGNet
Overwork drives Dengate Thrush out - IDGNet
Hacker trial starts in Manukau
He stands accused of using passwords obtained from Xtra customers to gain free internet access and faces 10 charges of fraud, forgery, wilful damage and threatening to damage property. Andrew Garrett is also New Zealand's hacker test case and many interested parties will be watching this one closely. Already one potential loophole in our law has been closed - whether a computer program or password could be defined as a document under the Crimes Act. An early case said yes it could, so Garrett's defence now seems to rest on whether his PC was under his control when the crimes were alleged to have occurred.
This is a tricky point - and one that will have huge ramifications for the rest of us. How many viruses have come your way from a friend or colleague whose PC sent them out without their knowledge? Distributed denial of service attacks (basically the electronic equivalent of ringing the doorbell and running away, only thousands of times per second) work in a similar manner - your PC is involved in the attack without your knowledge or permission. If the judge rules that PC owners are responsible for their machine's activities online, regardless of whether the PC user is directing those actions, a lot of people will find themselves liable if damage is caused by a virus they've inadvertently sent on or an attack that comes through their machine.
The trial has barely begun and is expected to last for four weeks.
Computer hacking trial opens - NZHerald
Jurors witness hacking demonstration - NZHerald
Password ruling blow to accused hacker - NZHerald