Stories by Juha Saarinen

Telecom rolls the dice with cabinetisation gamble

Chorus, the infrastructure arm of Telecom, is working hard on shortening the local copper loop. Around the country, people are starting to see the large green Whisper cabinets made by Eaton in Christchurch in the streets. Chorus announced on May 3 that the cabinet installation process was half-way through, with 1800 of the planned 3600 cabinets activated.

Telco glitch downs NZ online media archive

An unauthorised transfer request saw New Zealand’s online media archive NZ On Screen go offline on April 8, losing its landline with voice, internet and alarm services on it for over a week.
Project director Brenda Leeuwenberg says she discovered the landline in question had been disconnected on Tuesday April 8, and rang Telecom’s business helpline to find out what had happened.
To her surprise, Leeuwenberg was told that the line had been transferred to another provider. Leeuwenberg is the only person at NZ On Screen to authorised to make changes to the organisation’s Telecom account, and says she did not ask for the line to be transferred.
Making matters worse, an already livid Leeuwenberg was told by Telecom that they couldn’t reveal who had authorised the transfer or where the line had been shifted to. Leeuwenberg was told by Telecom that current regulation prevents them from disclosing such information and also, once it receives a transfer request, it has to act on it.
Telecom’s helpdesk staffer told Leeuwenberg that NZ On Screen’s line had been “slammed”, a practice that means telcos take over customers’ connections without their authorisation. As there was another order on the line, the helpdesk staffer told Leeuwenberg it couldn’t be transferred back.
NZ On Screen’s line was through Telecom Wholesale, with Actrix providing VDSL2 broadband over it, and Telecom Retail’s Business Unit voice services. By contacting Actrix, Leeuwenberg was able to find out that the line had been transferred to Orcon.
Initially, Orcon denied all knowledge of NZ On Screen’s phone number or the transfer according to Leeuwenberg.
Computerworld contacted Orcon and was told through spokesman Duncan Blair that the landline had indeed been transferred to his company. This was however done by accident, as the customer requesting the transfer had moved into NZ On Screen's old offices and given Orcon a phone number found on telephone jack there. There was a misunderstanding as to whose number this was, Blair says. Orcon's service provisioning team took it as belonging to the customer requesting the transfer, which was wrong.
Blair says the phone number wasn't correlated with the account number, and that Orcon will tighten up its provisioning processes from now on to stop accidental service transfers.
Explaining why Telecom couldn’t tell Leeuwenberg the provider where the landline had been moved to, its spokeswoman Julia Bell says that once Orcon sent a request to Telecom Wholesale to transfer the customer from Telecom Retail, there is no visibility for the latter as to what’s happening.
This is due to “separation rules”, Bell says. “We are not allowed to know, nor are we allowed to contact the customer at any stage during or after they change to a new ISP.”
The request for transfer was for “Naked DSL”, that is broadband without voice service, which further complicated the issue as Chorus technicians removed NZ On Screen’s landline.
Bell says Telecom has credited NZ On Screen for the disconnection fee charged when the connection was transferred to Orcon, even though this wasn’t Telecom’s mistake.
By the time Computerworld spoke to Orcon, NZ On Screen had been without landline service for six days. Leeuwenberg says NZ On Screen has eight full-time employees who were left unable to do their jobs without phone and internet access, and she was also concerned about the office being left without alarm.
Leeuwenberg told Computerworld that by April 14 last week, full service had been restored to NZ On Screen. Also, Orcon sent a case of wine to NZ On Screen as compensation for the outage.
Spokesman Derek Pullen from Telecommunications Dispute Resolution services says his organisation doesn’t often receive complaints about scheme members transferring services without authorisation. Any such complaints are “promptly resolved” he says and advised customers with non-TDRS scheme telcos to write to their providers and if that fails, speak to their local Community Law Centre or approach the Disputes Tribunal.
Such complaints should also be registered with the Commerce Commission, Pullen says.
Neil McKellar, chief executive of Dispute Resolution Services Ltd that manages complains for TDRS, says “this is an unusual case”. McKellar referred to the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) Customer Transfer Code that members are bound by, and which says the responsibility to obtain valid and complete authorisation for a transfer lies solely with the gaining provider – in NZ On Screen’s case, Orcon.
His understanding is that Telecom would be unable to advise NZ On Screen where the services had gone due Privacy Act provisions. He invited Leeuwenberg to contact TDRS if the situation with Orcon reached a “deadlock”.
Orcon left the TDR scheme end of April.

FryUp: Time to modernise telco charging

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cAppholeswww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
Jon Stewart has the final say on Apple setting in motion a heavy-handed police raid at Gizmodo contributor Jason Chen’s home. Chen had computers, storage, documents and other things confiscated, on top of having his door smashed down by The Man.
Maybe that’s poetic justice for Gizmodo hanging out to dry the engineer that lost the iPhone 4G prototype, but Apple has a history of slamming journos and bloggers who scoop their new stuff hard. And, getting away with it too, because Apple makes such lovely desirable devices.
The clip is eight minutes and forty seconds, but you have time for Jon. Yes, you do. It’s Friday, damn it.
Incidentally, would The Independent (the UK variant) and its associated story reprinters please stop saying that Chen was arrested?
- iPhone case: seizure of Gizmodo computers ‘illegal”
— Steve Wozniak on Apple security, employee termination, and Gray Powell

Regulate MTRs, say Labour and 2 Degrees

Regulate MTRs, say Labour and 2 Degrees
Third mobile network operator 2 Degrees has swung behind calls to regulate mobile termination rates.
The telco calls mobile termination rates “toll charges” and say New Zealand has some of the most expensive ones in the world.
Pointing to Vodafone’s recent retail offer that provides low calling rates to on-net mobile customers, 2 Degrees chief operating officer Bill McCabe says that this appeared as soon as the Commerce Commission recommended to the minister voluntary undertakings to lower termination rates by the UK-owned telco and Telecom.
McCabe says the Commission must feel gamed by “the incumbent operator”.
According to McCabe, UK termination rates will be cut to around 1¢ by 2014, or roughly 1/6 of the rate that Vodafone and Telecom proposed in their voluntary undertakings.
2 Degrees says lower termination rates means lower retail prices, which is why they are falling around the world.
The controversial Talk plan in question costs $12 a month and gives pre-pay customers 200 minutes of talk-time for calls to landlines and Vodafone mobiles.
Labour ICT spokeswoman Clare Curran issued a statement saying the new offer appears to undercut Vodafone’s termination rate undertakings. She says the telco has essentially increased prices for non-Vodafone customers to call its customers.
This is not a sign of a healthy marketplace, Curran says. She calls on Joyce to regulate termination rates.
A Vodafone spokesperson says Curran “hasn’t read the offer clearly” and says the plans are popular with customers. Furthermore, there are very similar offers in the market today, the spokesperson says.
In 2007, the then Labour minister of Economic Development, Trevor Mallard, rejected the Commerce Commission’s second recommendation to regulate termination rates. Mallard favoured a deal offered by Vodafone and Telecom that would see termination rates drop to 14.4¢/minute and 12¢/minute respectively by 2012, with the telcos promising that all of cuts would be passed on to customers.
The telecommunications commissioner, Dr Ross Patterson, has since then revisited this decision and asked Vodafone and Telecom to improve the offer. Both telcos did so, but Patterson wrote to Minister Joyce after Vodafone’s retail on-net/off-net plan was released, saying it was material.

Vodafone's retail plan could trigger MTR regulation

Communications Minister Steven Joyce has sent back the Commerce Commission's recommendation to accept Telecom and Vodafone's commercial offers to lower mobile termination rates in lieu of regulation, after the latter telco launched a cheap retail plan for on-net calls.

FryUp: Fear the updates

Constantin is forever Copronymus
Copyright lawyers are the biggest funsuckers in the world. Sadly, they have all the power and no interest in silly things like popular culture, fair use and well, fun.
The makers of Downfall, as used for the parodies, Constantin Film AG in Germany, appear to have scored the biggest own-goal in recent times. Was going to get the film, but now… probably not.
Oh yeah, the below clips are liable to disappear at any moment.

Outsourcing haircut likely for Telecom Technology

Telecom’s recently-announced IT infrastructure management re-jig could have wide implications and bite deep into staffing numbers at the telco if outsourcing of the Telecom Technology & Shared Services (TT&SS) support unit goes ahead.

Updated: Vodafone wins TSO appeal

In a judgement dated April 1 but released only today, the High Court in Wellington has found in favour of Vodafone in an appeal against Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO) determinations made by the Commerce Commission.

Switch fault takes out Blenheim phones

A switch fault today saw thousands of Telecom customers in Blenheim unable to make phone calls from their landlines. The fault struck at 2.40 pm, with the a switch being lost.

ACTA: harmless or horror?

Is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) a harmless attempt to quietly harmonise intellectual property laws and enforcement around the world, or a threat to civil liberties that will require fundamental legislative changes to implement?

Compromised server takes down Digiweb

A compromised server was the root cause of a series of outages at Christchurch-based web hosting provider Digiweb this week, according to a note to customers obtained by Computerworld.
"It appears that one customer site was compromised, which in turn caused the flood of malformed packets to the firewalls. Our internal network analysis software did not identify these packets as they were not ‘standard’ TCP/IP traffic," a note from Adrian Grant, the managing director of Digiweb-owned Discount Domains, says.
The note catalogues the difficulty technicians had in identifying the root cause of the problem, with help being sought from both Gen-i locally and US engineers from firewall company Check Point.
Digiweb first went down on Tuesday night between between 9.30 and midnight. That was attributed to a "core switch intermission failure" and two switches were replaced.
However, on Wednesday night the symptoms reoccurred from 7.30 pm.
"Clearly this highlighted that the corrective action of the previous night i.e. the replacement of both core switches deferred the issue rather than provided a permanent resolution," Grant writes.