Exetel thanks Conroy for 'free plug'

Summary:The controversial chief executive of ISP Exetel has thanked Stephen Conroy for the "free plug" the communications minister has given the ISP's National Broadband Network fibre plans in Tasmania — even while appearing to quietly change the final shape those plans will take.

The controversial chief executive of ISP Exetel has thanked Stephen Conroy for the "free plug" the communications minister has given the ISP's National Broadband Network fibre plans in Tasmania — even while appearing to quietly change the final shape those plans will take.

Exetel revealed its projected NBN plans in Tasmania last week, outlining fibre access fees that were radically different from those offered on traditional ADSL broadband plans — such as a zero-cost monthly plan at 25Mbps, with downloads charged at $1 per gigabyte.

Conroy has mentioned the plans several times over the past few days in interviews and media conferences in the wake of the release of the government's NBN Implementation Study as evidence of how NBN pricing could be affordable. In a post on his blog this morning, Linton said he was watching ABC on Sunday morning where Conroy in an interview mentioned the Exetel prices.

"He was his usual mixture of bewilderment, ignorance and barely concealed thuggery, but I was amused at his reference to Exetel (not by name)," Linton wrote on his blog. The blog was made private last week — only Exetel users or those who have donated $20 to a wildlife charity of Linton's choice can now access it.

"While I'm grateful for the 'free plug' (though how many Tasmanians in the fibred areas actually watch an ABC political segment on TV on a Sunday morning would be questionable) I thought it was an obvious example of "straw clutching" if it wasn't based on appallingly bad briefing, which I would doubt, because for him to have been aware of any actual pricing would have required some sort of briefing," added Linton.

However, the executive appears to have changed the basis of Exetel's NBN plans since he first revealed them last week, posting plans labelled "Fibre in Tasmania" (using Aurora Energy infrastructure) on Exetel's website.

The executive hasn't yet responded to a request for comment asking for confirmation that the Tasmanian plans are the NBN plans, but posts on his blog over the past week where Linton refers to three fibre providers — Telstra and Opticomm in Victoria and the NBN in Tasmania — appear to show the fibre plans on Exetel's site refer to the NBN in Tasmania.

The fibre plans come at three speeds (25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps) and feature monthly access costs of $10, $25 and $50 respectively. It appears that no data comes with the plans, but that downloads are charged at $1.50/GB, $1.00/GB and $0.75/GB respectively.

The plans are more expensive than the offerings Linton had originally proposed last week — at that stage the ISP CEO had listed projected plans of 25Mbps for a zero upfront monthly cost per month, with data charged at $1.00/GB.

The 50Mbps and 100Mbps services were expected to be $15.00/$25.00 per month plus $1.00 per GB downloaded.

The news also comes as Exetel had recently temporarily changed the terms under which it offers customers a 'free downloads' period without quota. Previously from 12 midnight to 12 noon or 2AM to 2PM, the period had changed to 2AM to 8AM.

"Circumstances have again materially changed and require us to modify the off-peak period to ensure that the network that supports residential users remains as it has been planned to operate — without congestion at all times and without any 'throttling' of P2P or other traffic types," the company wrote in an email to users seen by Delimiter.

"This is a significant reduction on first sight but it still means that anyone who knows how to use a download scheduler can down load, depending on their actual line speed, a very large amount of data in any month."

Exetel had said it would offer customers a wireless plan to help compensate them for the loss — with pay as you use downloads charged at 1.75c/MB.

However, in a forum posting after its initial email, the company rescinded the change, saying it apologised to those people it upset and/or confused, and that it would address profit shortfalls by "asking any customer who makes Exetel a loss to either move to a new plan or to move to another service provider" as they came out of contract.

Topics: Broadband, Government : AU, NBN, Telcos

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