Telecom plans to monitor phone calls to control data traffic, according to its media relations manager Linda Sanders. However Sanders would not comment when asked how Telecom will differentiate between data traffic and a person making regular lengthy phone calls.
When asked whether that monitoring will include listening in to users' calls, or instead some form of electronic eavesdropping, Sanders responded "it is a commercially sensitive matter".
Sanders says their focus regarding data traffic control is currently on ISPs and traffic to known ISP numbers. "But in the future we will be looking at other large-scale data users as well," she says.
Given that Telecom has set its new limit at 10 hours per month, "large scale" use amounts to a single 20-minute phone call per day to the same number.
Telecom would then require anyone dialling into a data network, like teleworkers or people using an office-based Internet connection after hours, to call one of the new 0867 numbers or pay the 2c per minute charge. The new system requires all ISP traffic to be routed through Telecom's IPNet, ostensibly to better manage the "growing Internet traffic through [Telecom's] network", according to Telecom's press release dated June 10.
But ISPs are crying foul and say Telecom is to blame for the amount of traffic on the network. "If they spent some money on the infrastructure itself then there wouldn't be a problem with overloading," says Ihug director Tim Wood.
He says that Telecom's Xtra is the country's largest ISP and it has just launched a so-called "all you can eat" Internet access package that will encourage users to stay online longer, so any issues with overloading are partly Tele-com's fault in the first place.
Wood is considering seeking a legal injunction to give ISPs more time to assess Telecom's move.
"It would take us six to eight months to work out our business model alone. Telecom's joking if it thinks we can do all that in six weeks," says Wood.
Concerns have also been raised over Telecom's classification of data calls as less important than voice traffic. Sanders says if any company is using the Internet for mission-critical work then it should be using a leased-line arrangement rather than simple dial-up access.
Consumers Institute chief executive David Russell believes time is of the essence.
"I think the ISPs and Telecom should sit down together and hammer out some kind of agreement on pricing and structure and they should do it now."
Russell believes an independent third party could be called on to run the meeting and thinks that Minister of Communications Maurice Williamson should step in on behalf of government.