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Clear Reject Telecom's Monopoly Internet Control

CLEAR Communications today rejected Telecom's 0867 Internet dial-up access numbers, saying New Zealanders should neither be denied a choice of provider nor forced on to an inferior service. It has told customers they can continue using CLEAR's Internet services without penalty and without changing their computer settings.

Chief Executive Tim Cullinane promised customers they would be fully compensated by CLEAR if Telecom imposed its threatened two cents per minute charge for local calls to an Internet Service Provider supported by the CLEAR network.

"This issue is too important for New Zealand to cave in on," said Mr Cullinane. "Telecom can't be allowed to take control of the Internet because the Internet is just too important to the future of all New Zealanders. It's the bridge to the knowledge economy, and one monopolist organisation is trying to set up a toll gate.

"CLEAR has advocated, and we continue to advocate, that the government should step in to check this monopolistic behaviour. To date, this hasn't happened and the time has come for CLEAR to give its customers certainty about their continued access to the Internet."

Mr Cullinane said CLEAR was contacting its retail and wholesale Internet customers with the compensation undertaking. Compensation would apply as soon as Telecom imposed its local call charge, currently scheduled to begin on 1 November. CLEAR would fully compensate customers for the two cents per minute charge, which applies for every minute of local Internet calling after the first 10 hours per month.

"Our message to our customers is this: Don't change a thing, carry on as you are, and it won't cost you any more."

In the meantime, CLEAR would continue to argue for government leadership on Telecom's bid to monopolise New Zealand internet access.

"The issue is simple: If this charge for local calling, which is a breach of the Kiwi Share, is allowed, Telecom will effectively penalise any New Zealander who has decided they don't want to be dictated to by Telecom," said Mr Cullinane. "A two cent per minute charge for local calling is the thin edge of the wedge. It is imperative the government takes action on this issue. We hope that our announcement today is a reminder to the government that it needs to take action to protect New Zealand's Internet users and the development of the knowledge economy."

Mr Cullinane said the 0867 regime would give Telecom absolute monopoly control of Internet access and, as such, control of competitors' residential Internet traffic. This would give Telecom the ability to shift Internet traffic to a designated pipe so that it could be degraded as Telecom wished while its own customers' traffic was managed differently. This also means Telecom would be able to discriminate between its customers and everyone else in terms of how Internet traffic is managed. He noted that Xtra, Telecom's own Internet Service Provider, would not be required to shift to 0867 and that Telecom had already proposed to degrade 0867 traffic by artificially removing calling party numbers.

"If 0867 is not rejected, one company, Telecom, would for the first time have total and absolute monopoly control of access to the Internet. Everyone, whether they want to or not, would in effect become a prisoner of Telecom's monopoly Internet control." ENDS

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