September 30, 2008

Carriers and Content Providers Start to Cosy Up


TELSTRACLEAR will let residential broadband customers surf Trade Me and watch videos posted on its portal without that counting toward their data traffic caps for three months, in a move that may pave the way for more tie- ups between carriers and content providers.

InternetNZ executive director Keith Davidson played down concerns that it might be the thin end of a wedge that threatened to undermine the principle of "Net neutrality" and reduce the diversity of content on the Web, saying the arrangement was "not of significant concern".

The principle of Net neutrality is that telcos should provide equal access to websites, instead of favouring their own sites and e- businesses with which they have a commercial relationship.

Telecom spokesman Ian Bonnar says Telecom does not favour its YahooXtra portal or online shopping site Ferrit by providing its broadband customers with unmetered access to those sites, but he hints that could change.

"Unmetered sites are an area of interest for us, and we are actively investigating the appeal for customers, as well as the technical and commercial considerations around these types of offerings."

Telecom has signalled it will prioritise Internet phone calls over other Net traffic carried on its Internet protocol-based "next- generation network". This is required to ensure people continue to enjoy the same quality of service for calls when Telecom turns off the switched-circuit PSTN.

Vodafone has tested the principle of Net neutrality by providing its mobile subscribers with unmetered access to Sky TV clips, though a separate subscription fee applies.

TelstraClear spokesman Chris Mirams does not believe the arrangement with Trade Me crosses any boundaries "because it is only a three-month trial". No money is changing hands, and TelstraClear has not made any decisions on providing unmetered access to other sites.

Consumer marketing head Steve Jackson says it will give "customers the opportunity to surf for bargains on Trade Me without thinking about the cost of their broadband usage".

There have been no objections so far from Trade Me's top competitors. chief executive Alistair Helm says his "top-of- the- head" perception was that anything that made it easier to access the Web was good for all people. He doubted unmetered access would advantage Trade Me, saying people's broadband caps were generally "well under-utilised". Paul Bassett, chief executive of rival trans-Tasman jobs website Seek, would not comment.

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