Hard News by Russell Brown

Hurtling Backwards?

It seems that today's post on DSL market issues has caused quite a flap. The info from readers wasn't quite right, but neither is the situation very flash either - as Paul Brislen's comment below indicates. Telecom is coming back to me with some comment, which I'll run tomorrow. Just to clarify for now that the accounts "no longer being promoted" are business DSL services. Anyway, the post originally began thus ...

Can anybody tell me some more about Telecom's decision to withdraw all its faster JetStream consumer plans - meaning that anyone who wants a 2Mbit service now faces a price rise from $79 a month to a "business" rate of between $249 and $299? I had heard chatter of this but had naively assumed that it couldn't possibly be right. It is.

I presume this is some sort of pre-emptive measure in anticipation of the final determination on TelstraClear's application on bitstream access, which would allow it (and subsequently other major ISPs, such as Ihug and Orcon) to offer more competitive deals in reselling Telecom's DSL. But I still don't actually understand it. Why would Telecom, having offered a reasonably affordable 2Mbit/s residential service since the inception of JetStream (lately with relatively generous data gaps), wish to so nastily stick it to its customers?

Peter Lees contacted me with what I assume will be a typical complaint:

I have Jetstream 600 access at 61.33 per month plus Orcom Business Jetstream at 17.73 pm total 79.06pm.

Now Orcon tell me that Telecom are no longer reselling JetStream plans after the 31st August and that I will have to subscribe to new Orcon Business Bitstream plan.

If I want 2MBPS I have to pay 249.95+ instead of 79.06!.
I can get 256KBPS at 59.95 but this is not the same.
It looks like a typical Telecom rort!

I checked XTRA, Telstra etc and they all have the same plans. Jetstream seems to have been deleted from Telecom site.

Anyone who can shed any light on Telecom's move to hurtle the local Internet community back into the past should feel free to get back to me.

NB: Computerworld's Paul Brislen has come back with a prompt and helpful comment:

Yes, sadly it's all true. Well, mostly.

Firstly, they're not doing away with the plans altogether - they're simply not advertising them any more. Subtle difference, I know, but if you know to ask your Telecom account person then they'll sell them to you.

Oh yes, it has to be a Telecom account person because these plans won't be sold via other ISPs as the JetStream Partnering Programme has been shut down in favour of the UBS wholesale regime.

Which means if you want DSL in NZ but don't want it from Xtra you have to buy one of the specially crippled services with a maximum up speed of 128kbit/s. Thanks a whole heap, Douglas Webb, for introducing that particular nasty.

On the plus side, well there is no plus side. NZ used to have the fastest (albeit most expensive) broadband in the world when it launched in 1999. Now we've got nothing but a service that doesn't actually make the grade to be called broadband (128 is too slow) anywhere else.

Oh, and if you're comparing prices, consider for a moment the Poor Dumb Bastards on JetStream business... we compared prices in CW a while ago:

Ihug's parent company, iiNet, offers its iiBroadband2 "medium" plan in Australia with 12Mbit/s download and 1Mbit/s upstream speeds, with a 40GB monthly traffic cap, for A$70 (NZ$75) a month. Telecom's best DSL business plan offers 8Mbit/s download and 600kbit/s upload speeds with a 30GB traffic cap for NZ$2,417.78 plus GST per month.

It's so appalling I don't know where to begin. New Zealand, of all the countries in the world, should be making the most of telecommunications. It defeats that age old monster we've all struggled with - distance. Suddenly we're as close to our markets as any other seller anywhere else in the world. We can compete in the emerging market of information if only we're allowed to.

Sadly Telecom tells me the market demand for faster upload speeds is "niche" and "easy to overestimate". Given the reader feedback from businesses as niche as accountants, lawyers, doctors, software developers, architects, consultants, opticians, designers and journalists (off the top of my head) this is not the case.

Meanwhile: hysteria on the right about a site at bloodyidiot.co.nz which, in the spirit of the Tui ad parodies, declares that "If You Vote Don Brash, You're a Bloody Idiot", (screenshot here), makes the coinage "George W. Brash", etc. I didn't think the site was so great, and my strong preference is for anyone posting this kind of speech (or almost any political speech for that matter) to identify themselves. A quick whois showed the domain name is registered to Tom Hovey, who works for Wellington development and hosting company Boost New Media.

The site turned up in a post at Just Left. Then there was a furious post from Aaron Bhatnagar (who has, it should be noted, had the good grace to post his own "attack ads" under his own name).

Hovey contacted Bhatnagar to say that he didn't build the site, "But I do know the group of people behind the site and have asked them to take it down in light of the recent negative publicity from sites such as yours. They're very disappointed and have protested strongly!"

Then this one from Sir Humphreys darkly noting that Boost (like every other web shop in Wellington, actually) does public sector work and listing the agencies for which it has worked. Then another one, based on fevered scrutiny of the page code. And there's another vigorous thread on DPF's site.

What I find funny is that the loudest howls of outrage are coming from people who have variously compared Helen Clark to Stalin and Nixon, and called her "butt ugly" and an "ugly bitch" - usually under made-up names. It seems a little rich. I also find the suggestions that the company Hovey works for should resign all its public-sector contracts pretty creepy.

NB: Mr Hovey has posted a set of answers to the various fevered conspiracy theories. Storm. In. A. Teacup.

But 'tis the season for advocacy, and with a little luck you'll see the following Google ad over to the right of this page:

Election 05 - be informed
Know what your voting for? Compare policy and candidates

The NZvotes site is, curiously enough, brought to us by that staunch defender of educational standards, the Maxim Institute … The site itself is being promoted as "a community service" and "non-profit, and non-partisan. All political content on this site is the views of the parties, candidates, and guest columnists, in their own words." The selection of those words is interesting, but oh well, carry on …

Meanwhile, further speculation as to the extent to which students might abuse an interest-free student loans system. Am I the only one who objects a little to the characterisation of such students, who might take money they don't need (at the maximum $150 a week) and use it for purposes other than their education, thus potentially wrecking the system for their peers who do need it, as "smart" and "entrepreneurial"? Entrepreneurialism is the admirable practice of combining resources in an innovative fashion and creating wealth. I'm not sure if ripping off the taxpayer counts.

And, finally, Children's Hour played on Friday night to a packed house and it was great. Really great, as in exceeding all expectations. For me, dare I say it, it topped the year's other big revival show, the Straitjacket Fits show. (As my mate Nat quoth after they'd roared through 'Looking for the Sun', "Well, if that didn't take you to the wall …")

But a correction is due to the YFC story in Friday's post. Although I'm not the only one who remembers it that way, it wasn't Ian Grant who served the letter on Jonny Ogilvie 20-odd years ago, but Brian McStay the then chair of Auckland Youth for Christ. Ian Grant was prominent in protests against the group and its name (and still believes they stood against "everything good in society"), but he didn't serve the letter at the Windsor Castle. Ian emailed to set me right (he did grant that Mr McStay looked similar enough to have been mistaken for him "if you weren't really thinking it through"), and I've annotated the original post accordingly. Apologies for the mix-up.

PS: You may notice that your protests about Orange Election Man have borne fruit. He only wobbles for a few seconds now, rather than on into infinity ...