ISPs and TUANZ react strongly to 0867 Internet traffic plan

Telecom's recent move to force all data traffic through a new numbering system has outraged most ISPs around the country. ISP representitives met last Tuesday to decide how to respond but are refusing to comment on whether any action was resolved or even whether there will be another meeting.

Telecom's recent move to force all data traffic through a new numbering system has outraged ISPs around the country. ISP representitives met last Tuesday to decide how to respond but no announcement has come out of that meeting.

"I can't tell you what we decided. I can't tell you if we're having another meeting," says Telecommunication Users Association president, Ernie Newman. "I can't tell you what the TUANZ position will be except to reiterate our position that the government should investigate Telecom's position."

Clear Communication spokesman Clayton Cosgrove also refused to comment regarding the meeting itself.

"I can tell you that Clear believes Telecom is doing this to get round the interconnection agreement and we will be pursuing our legal options. Telecom is simply using its monopoly position to close down any competition and that's not good for New Zealand Internet users."

The Commerce Commission is looking into the issue and will decide whether or not to launch an investigation as soon as possible. If a full investigation is called for it could take several weeks, says communications manager Vince Cholewa.

"We've only received one complaint to date but we'll look into the matter because of its potential impact."

One of the smaller ISPs, Digital Edge, has launched a Web site that allows users to send email directly to Telecom and to the Minister for Telecommunications, Maurice Williamson.

"The costs to a small ISP like ourselves could be quite considerable," says Mark Mackay, Internet coordinator at Digital Edge. "We will lose customers because Xtra won't have to charge as much and they'll be able to offer a better service."

Mackay says despite making several requests he hasn't been able to receive an assurance of minimum quality levels from Telecom.

"There's nothing to say if one exchange is overloaded they'll put our users through to another. They say they have the ability to but they don't guarantee it. Does that mean they'll charge us for that as well?"

Ihug's director Tim Wood describes IPNet as "moving your food around your plate to make it look as if you've eaten all your dinner." He says adding a new phone number to the front of the existing system won't make the system management more efficient.

"If Telecom spent more money on the infrastructure we wouldn't be having the problems with overloading that we are having."

Mackay also sought guarantees that Telecom won't start charging for the new 0867 numbers but says Telecom refused to put anything in writing.

Mackay also points out that every ISP will have to pay for the new phone numbers as a separate bill from the line rental.

"The first ten are free, and we'll probably be able to get by on those, but if you want more you'll have to pay. Previously that cost was built into the line rental." Mackay says Digital Edge uses Clear but he doesn't think it will be lowering its monthly line rental costs because he has to buy a new phone number from Telecom.

Another issue ISPs have raised is that of monitoring their traffic. Currently all ISPs can monitor traffic to ensure users don't stay online too long or to charge by the minute. Only Telecom will be able to monitor traffic on IPNet, and that worries some ISPs.

"We won't be able to monitor our own clients to ensure they're getting the quality we've promised and Telecom will be getting a lot of demographic information about our clients. There's nothing to stop Telecom then offering deals targeted at our clients just like they do with Saturn in Wellington," says one ISP manager who did not wish to be named.

"We will in effect get the call delivered to us and will have no control at all over how that call gets answered, what compression is used etcetera," says Mackay.

ISPs will be required to contact all customers and get them to change the dial-up setting on their PCs.

"We'll set up a call centre and try to contact each and every customer to tell them not to call the local number and we'll have to re-master all our CDs and mail them out to every customer. That's not cheap," says Mackay, and he should know. Digital Edge has changed numbers for dial-up customers twice in recent years.

"We still get users dialing into old numbers either because they've never got round to updating their system or they've loaded the old number on a new machine or whatever. That's after 18 months." Telecom has given ISPs six weeks to change over to the new numbering system before the call charges kick in.

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