An angry Auckland-based ISP manager says Telecom has "pulled the plug" on a working solution to terminate 0867 calls with the Clear network.
Clear has backed up Web Internet's claim that the solution - which Telecom says is impossible until it negotiates an interconnection agreement for 0867 numbers with Clear - was working until Telecom switched it off.
Web Internet's David Gottschalk says the solution is still actually working in one area "because Telecom haven't picked up that I'm doing it there. The moment Telecom find out about it they'll cut me off."
Web Internet is one of a number of firms which had been using Clear's network for dial-up. It was forced to move its dial-up to Telecom's 0867 number range and was allocated 0867 numbers - but Telecom has been unable to meet its own deadline for provision the 0867 service.
Telecom has assured ISPs can 0867 numbers can be terminated with any carrier's network, but Gottschalk says that with 0867 service still unavailable to him and others, number portability based on call diversion is "currently the only mechanism in place to allow ISP's behind Clear to terminate 0867 calls. This service was working, until Telecom pulled the plug."
Clear spokesman Ross Inglis says Web Internet came to Clear and "we proposed a solution for them which basically meant that they could use the 0867 number range and we would use a portability solution based on call diversion to route that traffic through the Clear network and deliver it to them.
"Our understanding was that it was quite straightforward and legitimate under the interconnection agreements between ourselves and Telecom, but it appears that Telecom has switched it off.
"We did our best to provide a solution that appeared to work for them and their customers and we think it's regrettable that Telecom is prepared to switch off that solution unilaterally, without any consultation. And in the end it's Web Internet's customers who are going to suffer."
Telecom spokesman Glen Sowry confirms that calls can "technically" be transferred between Telecom and Clear, but "we do not have an agreement with Clear for the handing over of 0867 traffic, whereas with Saturn we do. The door is open - we would certainly like to talk to Clear on that front."
Sowry reiterated Telecom's offer to waive the two cents a minute charge for non-0867 Internet use for customers of ISPs who have been unable to get service yet.
"But Telecom has told all of my customers that everyone has to go onto 0867 otherwise they'll pay two cents a minute," says Gottschalk. "I get them ringing up and it's all very well me telling them we're exempt, because they'll say, we don't trust Telecom, and we'll go somewhere like Xtra where we won't have any problems."
Gottschalk says his other problem is that Clear is trunking calls from Whangarei and Hamilton for him "and I currently haven't been able to come to an agreement with Telecom on that with regards to 0867."
Sowry says 84 ISPs have active 0867 numbers, with 12 still waiting "and some of those have only very recently requested 0867 service". Gottschalk says he requested service six to eight weeks ago.
Gottschalk says one of his company representatives has raised the issue with Communications minister Maurice Williamson "and it would appear that his understanding of the alternatives to 0867 is seriously flawed. He expressed his belief that Clear would reimburse Telecom for the per-minute charges, and that these would not be reflected on the customer's Telecom bill. This is patently incorrect."