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Dateline: 18 April 2000 Early Edition
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Editorial
Breaking News: Clearnet Starts Free Net Service
Yes, the rumours were true. Clear has launched its own free Internet service called ZFree.

PrePay Internet Access -- Solution Or Problem?
Just a few weeks ago the NZ Herald reported that the police were unhappy about the way in which prepaid cellphones were making life easy for crims and making it hard to track down offenders.

Well now we have Dick Smith flogging a prepaid Internet access service from Quik Internet.

What a wonderful product for anyone wanting to send bulk email or commit any number of other illegal activities -- such as defamation or fraud.

I checked with Quik Internet and they acknowledged that although users of the prepay service are asked to enter a name when activating their account -- there's no supporting evidence required and that name could be any alias or completely bogus.

Likewise they have no measures in place to stop prepay users from abusing their mail or usenet servers.

Geoff Olliff of Quik Internet did say however that they're keeping an active eye on the activities of prepaid users and that if spam or illegal activities are brought to their attention they may review the matter.

So... how long before we start seeing a raft of scummy types buying prepaid Net access at $24.75 a for 20 hours, sending a bucket-load of unsolicited commercial email -- starting at midnight and continuing until they get cut off or that card runs out?

What's worse -- even if Quik Internet does respond to the tide of complaints that will eventually roll into their abuse mailbox, there's presently absolutely nothing to stop the offender from pulling out another prepaid card and doing it all again.

Considering that those who are seriously into the spamming game are charging hundreds of dollars per "run", this stands to become a rather profitable little earner -- until Quik gets blacklisted by every other site on the Net -- much to the disadvantage of other Quik Internet users who will find that their legitimate emails are bounced left right and centre.

Maybe Quik ought to consider putting a quota on the amount of email that can be sent through a Quik prepaid account in any given hour or day -- and also block the SMTP port so they can't relay through an open mailserver somewhere else on the Net by talking directly to the outside world.

These are simple precautions -- better to implement them now than after it becomes too late.

However, they still don't stop someone who might post defamatory or illegal (child porn, etc) material to the Net through such an account. Although it might be possible, in the case of illegal activities, to get access to Telecom's logs and find out from what number the call was made -- it must be remembered that Telecom is installing a raft of new "modem-equipped" pay-phones - uh-oh - another dead end.

Or maybe our scammers, spammers and paedophiles will use prepaid cellphones with modems?

Finally -- why would anyone want to buy prepaid Net access?

It makes sense in the cellphone market where the option is often a fixed-length contract and a stiff credit check -- but for Net access anyone with a telephone can ring up and get an XTRA account tacked onto their monthly bill. If you're a light Net user who might want to go months without using your account then you can go for the "per-hour" option with no minimum commitment and if you're a heavy enough user then you'd go flat rate for $39/month rather than buy a $49.50 prepaid pack wouldn't you?

Then of course there's always the fact that new ISPs seem to be tripping over themselves (and Telecom's lawyers) to offer you "FREE" Net access.

Olliff's response is that the prepaid option is gaining good market acceptance and it's the perfect product for giving as a gift or when a user has only very intermittent need to access the Net.

Nice idea guys -- let's hope you can pull it off.

IHUG Foiled Again?
What a bugger -- IHUG's second chance to get married seems to have been at least temporarily delayed.

The recent turmoil in world tech markets has seen Force Corporation hold off ratifying the deal that would see a reverse takeover to produce a new entity which was to be known as IHUG Networks.

Still, as I write this (at 4:15 am NZST, 12:15 EDT), things are looking up on the Nasdaq -- so maybe they'll make it to the altar before too long after all.

Telecom Loses -- Why Isn't Anyone Crying?
Telecom has lost its attempt to overturn an interim injunction granted against it on behalf of i4free -- and bloody good job to!

It's about time someone have them a good whack upside their head and made them realise that money and smart lawyers don't always give you license to walk all over your competition.

Oh dear, how Telecom must be smarting this morning! I wonder if we'll see XTRA launching its own free ISP service -- simply as a method of retaining a few customers.

Telecom's lesson of the day: "Let they who live by the lawyer, die by the lawyer."

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