ISPs launch 'public service' attack on Telecom's Xtra

Xtra's new 0800 access charge of $4.95 an hour for Internet access has come under attack from rival ISPs.

The independent ISP battle against Telecom's pricing of Xtra has leapt off the Internet and into a series of print ads--and an old-fashioned fax war.

A display ad headed "Would you like to reduce your company's 0800 telephone call costs by over 90%?" has run "as a public service message" in the NBR, the Dominion, the Press, the Independent and the Evening Post paid for by members of the new Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPANZ).

Copies have also been faxed to Telecom's top 300 0800 customers, its top 100 shareholders, CEO Rod Deane, communications head Clive Litt and Xtra boss Chris Tyler.

The ad focuses on Xtra's new 0800 access charge of $4.95 an hour, which ISPANZ members say represents a premium of only four cents a minute over dial-in access to Xtra--when Telecom's 0800 book rates are up to 60 cents a minute depending on distance.

"So if you're paying more than four cents a minute for 0800 access anywhere in the country," the ad reads, "call Telecom now on 126 and ask them to adjust their prices in light of what they now offer Internet users."

One of the companies behind the ads, Actrix Networks, has announced that it is finalising its own letter of complaint to the Commerce Commission. Operations manager Peter Muller says that Actrix has been unable to obtain one of Telecom's "special deals" on 0800 rates, which had apparently been available to ISPs with more than a million online minutes per month.

"Actrix currently runs at two-and-a-half times that level," says Muller. "While we get excellent service from Telecom at a local level, management further up are making pricing decisions that directly benefit their own subsidiary. They have a stranglehold on the telecommunications industry and are extending their monopoly to the Internet market."

Meanwhile, the "Bohica Dog" has become the ISPANZ logo and now features on the home pages of more than 20 ISPs.

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