Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
MID-DAY UPDATE: The phones are back on, the
headlines have been updated.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
First, time for the little note of thanks I give to those fine folks
over at Vodafone
when they come to the rescue after my phones go out.
As you can see (by the very fact that Aardvark is being published this morning),
Vodafone's excellent coverage and reliability has provided me with the
connectivity that Telecom is (once again) currently unable to.
So, go visit the Vodafone website, go buy their products, go use their services!
Note also that the news-links and headlines in today's edition won't be
updated until normal phone service is restored.
Now on with today's column:
Telecom NZ is reportedly going cap in hand to a number of big-name players
in the telecommunciations marketplace and asking them to help cover the
huge losses incurred as a result of compliance with the Kiwi Share.
You've heard of the Kiwi Share -- it's that immutable, cast-in-stone
guarantee that was made a binding condition sale when the corporation was
privatised over 10 years ago. Well when I say immutable, we must not forget
that some subtle but very important
changes were made to this cast-in-stone agreement and quietly snuck through
late last year when few people were watching -- so I guess we now have
a Clayton's Kiwi Share.
Anyway, it seems that Telecom now wants several other telco-related service
providers to ante-up about $36 million to offset those allegedly horrifying
If all those Telecom TV ads are to be believed, it might be natural to
expect that at least some of that money would go towards furthering
Telecom's commitment to world-standard reliability and those comprehensive
disaster-recovery measures they have in place.
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However, as any magician will tell you, sometimes what you see is not
what you get.
For example, as I type this, my phones have been off for over
13 hours and I'm told that they might not be fixed for almost another day.
I hate it when my phones go out for more than a few hours because it usually
takes me days to catch up on the email backlog that ensures -- and I was
already in "catch-up mode" before the outage.
Now if it was just me bitching then you'd be right to say "who cares, you
choose to live miles from anywhere where it's uneconomic to provide the
advertised levels of redundancy and disaster-recovery."
But hey, I'm not the only one bitching -- many areas north of Auckland were
without phone services for at least part of yesterday after a fibre-optic
cable failed for some reason.
Even emergency services were reportedly unable to receive calls and what's worse,
they couldn't even fall back on their cellphones -- they were out too. From
reports broadcast last night, it appeared as if things weren't put right for
some of the affected areas until about 9pm last night.
What I can't figure out is exactly why all those backup circuits didn't kick
in, or why the teams of trained experts didn't leap into action and organize
alternative connectivity for the huge number of businesses affected.
Could it be that Telecom's claims about the reliability of its core network
and the strength of its disaster-recovery systems are just a little overstated?
If that's the case then maybe that huge loss resulting from the Kiwi Share is
also more than a little exaggerated also.
Now, if Telecom goes out and demands a big chunk of cash from the likes of
TelstraClear, iHug, Compass, etc to offset part of this claimed loss, and
the loss is more illusion than reality, might that be considered an act
Of course I'm not about to suggest that Telecom are telling porkies and
I'm sure that Telecom's beancounters can readily prove that the losses
By the way (just to change the subject for a moment), did you know that
Arthur Andersen's highly skilled team of auditors were able to show that
Enron was a massively profitable public corporation -- right up until
the day it collapsed owing billions of dollars?
Finally, I think it's important to note that despite claiming that the local
loop represents a huge loss to the company, Telecom appears to have had little
difficulty in sustaining its very healthy profit level during the last quarter --
even though telcos in other parts of the world are struggling.
Of course that recently announced price hike for domestic phone rentals (except
in those areas where there is *real* competition) and the earlier hike in
costs for XTRA customers wouldn't have hurt any would they?
Don't get me wrong -- I think Telecom does an excellent job of generating
returns for its shareholders and, as a public company, that is exactly what it
is obliged to do. It must also be said that Telecom are usually very
responsive to my regular cellphone calls complaining that the land-lines are
out, and the man they send out to wind up the local exchange when the
spring runs down again is also pretty quick off the mark.
Quite frankly, I don't expect (or get) the type of reliability and redundancy
that Telecom tout so frequently -- but surely those businesses who operate
in the towns affected by yesterday's outage do.
One can't help but wonder whether someone at Telecom is having trouble
cashing their reality check these days.
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