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Reader Comments on Aardvark Daily 18 April 2002

Note: the comments below are the unabridged submissions of readers and do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher.


To:               pswain@ministers.govt.nz
Subject:          Telecom's DSL service
Date sent:        Mon, 11 Mar 2002 13:35:18 +1300

Hi Paul,

If you've been reading my daily Internet Industry column at
aardvark.co.nz  or any other industry news media, you'll be acutely
aware that Telecom has numerous problems (both technical and
otherwise) with its DSL service.

My summary of the latest events is at
http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2002/0306.shtml if you want to read it and I
can provide links to other relevant articles run on other sites if you'd

Due to its monopoly and control of the local loop (a critical
component of the DSL delivery chain) Telecom is really the only
provider of such broadband Internet access.  Yes, there are areas
where TelstraSaturn and a few others are providing very localised
broadband, and a few wireless operators are providing limited
coverage and service but in too many cases they're simply not
delivering (check out http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2001/1221.shtml for an

Based on the experience of other countries, DSL delivered through
the local loop is, and looks set to remain, the most viable broadband Net
access system.

Unfortunately, Telecom appears to be paying little more
than lip-service to the delivery of a fast, reliable, affordable DSL
service in New Zealand -- and that's a major roadblock for our knowledge

It is well known that Telecom would much rather sell its far more
expensive frame-relay and other data services to business users than DSL.
 Given that a reliable, affordable DSL service will meet the needs of 99%
of business users, Telecom has plenty of reasons why it would not want to
fix the numerous faults that currently exist with the product -- it would
reduce their revenues.

Now I realise that it's not government's role to tell private industry how
to structure, price or maintain its products and services but I believe
that we have a situation here which is quite exceptional.

Firstly, in the 21st century, data communications is every bit as
much an "essential service" as is the supply of electricity.
Increasingly, modern businesses can not operate efficiently (or in
some cases at all) without reliable Internet communications.

Secondly, Telecom has a very effective monopoloy on a core
component of any DSL service -- the local loop.  Unless the
company is made to open up access to that local loop at a
*reasonable* price then no real competition will be seen and Telecom will
be able to continue with its current practices and policies.

Thirdly, Telecom are asking those who sign up for its JetStream DSL
service to write them an open cheque in respect to metered traffic
charges.  Because they bill for every byte sent and received, whether
solicited or not, any NZ business using this service can be effectively
stung for tens of thousands of dollars by competitors or malicious parties
who may be operating half a world away.  That is a level of risk that no
business can afford to run and is reason enough to make Telecom's flavour
(the only flavour available) of DSL too risky to touch.

I am aware that we have a Telecommunications Commissioner
position being established but I think this requires a far more
fundamental change to the rules.

Please don't underestimate the significance of this issue.  Without
the right broadband Net-access infrastructure, much of this
motivational and rousing noise being made and supported by
government in the area of building a knowledge economy is being

I look forward to your earliest response and ask that if you'd like to
have it published in Aardvark, then please indicate this.

Bruce Simpson
Aardvark Daily

To: Bruce Simpson
Aardvark Daily

Dear Mr Simpson

Thank you for your 11 March 2002 e-mail in which you expressed a range of
concerns about the development of broadband Internet access services in
New Zealand.

In summary, the key points that you expressed in your e-mail were that:

In respect of the first three points, I certainly recognise the importance
of Telecom's local loop access network to the development of broadband
telecommunications access services in New Zealand.  As you will be aware
the Telecommunications Act 2001, which came into force in December 2001,
specifically addresses the issue of unbundling and requires the
Telecommunications Commissioner to report to the Minister by December 2003
on whether access to the unbundled elements of Telecom's local loop network
should be regulated.  This will ensure that the issue of unbundling the
local loop in the context of the development of New Zealand's broadband
access services is reconsidered in the light of international experience
and local developments.

I asked my officials to obtain Telecom's comments on the problems that it is
experiencing in providing reliable DSL based broadband services.  Telecom
says that it had recently experienced some problems with 'micro outages'.
Telecom said that in December 2001 Nokia completed software upgrades on a
core component of the JetStream service. Telecom also said that it has
reviewed all modem settings, made appropriate configuration changes and
that it was confident these actions have resolved the 'micro-outages'

As you know, I have consistently explained that the provision of reliable,
cost effective and timely telecommunications services, including broadband
access services, are critical to our economic development including the
knowledge economy.  In this respect it is important that broadband uptake
in New Zealand continue to expand, in line with developments in comparable
OECD countries.

With respect to current broadband coverage in New Zealand, I understand
that Telecom has DSL enabled some 148 telephone exchanges and that 63% of
Telecom's residential customers and 78% of business customers can access
its JetStream or JetStart broadband services.

As you are aware, the availability of broadband access in rural areas is
an important issue for government.  In this respect the Government has set
the challenging objective of ensuring that all New Zealand communities are
able to access two-way high speed Internet services by the end of 2003.
The objective was set to assist in achieving a range of government strategies
in rural areas including, eCommerce, eGovernment; regional development, and
ICT in schools.

Five regional broadband pilots have been initiated to improve the development
of the infrastructure and up-take of high speed Internet services in rural
areas under a facilitated demand aggregation model. The aim is to establish
effective working partnerships with local government, business and
communities to find local solutions.

Finally, it should be noted that as well as requiring a mandatory review of
local loop unbundling, the Telecommunications Act 2001 also requires a
mandatory review of access to, and interconnection with, Telecom's fixed
private data network.  This will ensure that the need to connect broadband
access circuits with Telecom's broadband data network is fully considered
at the same time as the unbundling issue.

I would welcome publication of my response in Aardvark.

Yours sincerely
Hon Paul Swain
Minister of Communications

From: Alan
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: broadband

Dear Sir,I was interested to read Paul Swain,s reply to you
in regards to DSL access,especially where he says that all
the problems with ADSL micro outages have been fixed.
Paul Swain should go to www.pcworld.co.nz and check out the
help column for internet users called press F1.
You will find that there are a lot of unhappy Jetstream and
Jetstart users.

From: Brian Harmer
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sorry State of DSL

Having had Jetstream for a little over a week, I was
beginning to think that I was experiencing the much talked
of micro-outages. However, on investigation, I discovered
that the default configuration on my otherwise excellent
(so far) Dynalink router is to drop the connection after 10
minutes of inactivity. Since that box was unchecked, no
further problems have been experienced ... but it's early
days yet.

On the matter of getting the Minister's reply as a Word
document, I fear that it is a de facto standard, just by
the sheer volume of copies out there. It is almost as
inevitable as the fact that he used English. He could have
chosen the allegedly more reasonable "open standard" of
Esperanto. Of course, fewer of us would have been able to
read his message if he had gone with the preferred
standard :-)

Aardvark Responds
MS Word documents attached to an email are not (yet) the
de facto standard for text-only email communications.

The vast majority of email that travels around the Net
is in plain-text form.

The only justification for using anything other than
plain-text is where the message needs to contain non-text
elements that have context-sensitive placement within
the document.

Common-sense would suggest that even if the choice
is made to send a plain-text email as an attached
MS Word document, it is a matter of courtesy
to also include an ascii-text version in the email
body.  After all, it only takes a couple of
seconds to do a copy/paste operation from the WP
screen to the email client.

I would have also thought that, given the importance
of security within government, and the undoubted
existence of yet to be disclosed security holes
in MS Word/Office, keeping things simple would be
a key part of reducing the sender's and recipient's
vulnerability to viruses/trojans/etc.

Or have I got this wrong?  Am I showing my age
by suggesting that sending plain text messages as
an MS Word document attachment is poor practice
and bad manners?  Readers are invited to respond.

From: Brian Harmer
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: ADSL

Following the advice of a previous correspondent, I went to
the "PressF1" website. Unless Telecom are somehow sucking
those messages out, I found not a single message relating
to Jetstream or Jetstart. Am I missing something here?

From: Allister
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: You're not old, Bruce

You are not wrong about MS-Word attachments.  They're only
called for when the content of the document exists as an
entity outside of the email, and email is simply the
delivery mechanism, or for the reasons you stated.

A plain text response to yours would be the only valid one
in this case.

The other thing about MS-Word, apart from viruses and the
availability of the software, is that its file sizes are
very large (compared to the plain-text).  Add to this the 7-
bit encoding required to attach it to the email and we're
talking some serious bandwidth if everybody were to do it.

Minsiters will use MS-Word for emails just as long as
people insist on screen captures being JPEGs and photos
being GIFs.  Joe public has the tools, just not the

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