New ISP aims to be no.3 in a year

As FlyingPig struggled through its first 24 hours online, a new nationwide ISP with which it has a brand partnership announced itself yesterday.

As FlyingPig struggled through its first 24 hours online, a new nationwide ISP with which it has a brand partnership announced itself yesterday.

From December 1, Ezysurf will offer flat-rate Internet access for $27.95 a month, sharply undercutting the $39.95 market rate offered by the "big three" ISPs, Xtra, Clear Net and Ihug.

Its set-up CDs will be sold for $27.95 (including the first month's connectivity) from the Pacific Retail chains Bond and Bond and Noel Leeming Computer City, and via FlyingPig, in which Pacific Retail is an investor. They will also be bundled with PCs sold from those sources.

Access will be at the same monthly flat rate of $27.95, but, in a move apparently modelled on the "free" ISPs in Europe, helpdesk service will cost $2 a minute via a Telecom 0900 number.

Although Telecom is involved only as a service provider, all Ezysurf's advertising will carry Telecom branding. The ISP will also use Telecom's IPNet network for dial-up access - no doubt raising some eyebrows amongst those ISPs who have struggled to make a viable offering out of IPNet, which is charged on a per-minute basis.

Ezysurf executive Rex Auty won't say what his company's deal on IPNet connectivity is, but hints that the fact that EzySurf's parent company does around $1 million worth of business annually with Telecom may have helped in striking a bargain.

That parent company is Dresden Equities, the country's largest private company, which is principally owned by the Spencer family and associated with businesses as diverse as Toyota New Zealand, Caxton Paper and Equitable Insurance.

Auty says the new venture has a line of credit authorised by the Dresden board and aims to be number three in the ISP market inside a year - although its projected growth of 20,000 customers would put it short of that mark.

The company will launch with a nationwide newspaper advertising campaign and its marketing will lean heavily on a feature new to the consumer Internet market - prize draws. Two Honda S2000 sports cars and trips to Hawaii, the Formula One racing event in Melbourne and the world superbike championships are scheduled to be given away.

Auty says the idea of entering the cut-throat ISP business came out of the "virtual ISP" created for Equitable by Mike Johnston, who is now Ezysurf's IT manager. Johnston, a former staff member at Auckland Internet Exchange, also has his own company, Spectrum Interactive, to which the Ezysurf domain name is still registered.

Auty says other staff hail from Xtra, Ihug and Clear Net.

The pitch for the new company will be "keeping it simple", says Auty. Ezysurf's Web site has been designed for new users, and will include a Web email interface for people who "can't find their mail in Internet Explorer".

The company's offices are in Airedale Street in central Auckland, very near the Telecom exchange. Johnston says the company presently has a 155Mbit/s ATM circuit to the exchange and 5Mbit/s of international bandwidth.

Auty says it will offer a one to 10 dial-in port ratio, conceding such a ratio is easy enough for a company which presently has no customers to offer.

The setup CD works with Windows 95, 98 and 2000, with Mac support promised early next year. It will direct new users to a range of payment options - including direct debit and automatic payment, as well as the option to credit user accounts via ASB branches.

The site also offers hosting, but does not yet offer a Usenet newsfeed. A Telecom JetStream service is also planned.

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