Definitions

ISP

Xtra (ISP)

Xtra Limited (trading as Xtra), is New Zealand's largest Internet service provider, a wholly owned subsidiary of Telecom New Zealand. Xtra offers various internet services including ADSL and dial-up connections within New Zealand and has been doing so since its inception in the mid 1990s.

The name Xtra is also used with the separate entity Yahoo!Xtra, a joint venture web portal between Telecom (49% stake) and Yahoo!7 (51% stake). The venture was formed in December 2006 replacing the XtraMSN web portal and includes additional features for Xtra broadband customers.

In 2008 Telecom dropped the Xtra brand name from products and services, using Telecom instead (Xtra broadband became Telecom broadband for example).

Background

From the time of Xtra's inception, Xtra has been providing dial-up internet throughout New Zealand. In 1999 Telecom created New Zealand's only ADSL service. Telecom later allowed other ISP's to access its ADSL networks (under increasing government and public pressure). Today, it is widely accepted that Telecom has provided and still is providing unfair and monopolistic terms of trade regarding its wholesale ADSL services.

Xtra's "Go Large" plan was introduced as New Zealand's first completely unlimited ADSL service in 2006, however there has been much public criticism and disappointment at the instability and general slowness of the newly introduced plan. The Go Large Plan was advertised with unlimited data usage and maximum speed. What was not clearly stated on advertisements, however, was that there was a fair use policy and traffic management that restricted users to a download limit between 4pm and 12am. If one were to continually exceed this limit, they would be placed in a "download pool", or contacted with offers to switch to another plan.

The largest ISP

As a subdivision of Telecom New Zealand, Xtra has retained some monopoly of its parent company. To many people, this monopoly is widely regarded as an unfair advantage over other ISPs. Many lobbyists, including Slingshot's CEO Annette Presley have persuaded New Zealand's Communications Ministry to force the unbundling of Telecom's local loop, so as to fairer trading terms and lessen Xtra's ISP monopoly. The LLU (Local loop unbundling) has not yet been completed, however some initial tests have been completed. Unbundled access is expected to arrive about mid 2008.

ORBS

During 2001 Xtra and Actrix (New Zealand Internet Service Providers) won a High Court injunction to get themselves off the Open Relay Behavior-modification System (ORBS) anti-spam blacklist operated by Alan Brown. ORBS had been a blacklist of IP addresses relating to open mail relays, which can be abused by spammers to send unsolicited bulk e-mail. Hundreds of organisations subscribed to the list, including Bigfoot.com and at least one other large free mail provider. They rejected e-mail from any IP address listed in ORBS.

The court action led (indirectly) to the end of one of the oldest DNSBL services.

Xtra Go Large Plan

A 'unlimited', unrestricted internet plan was released in January 2007. This plan turned out to be a hoax as you could only download up to 700mb in an hour during peak times. This triggered a lot of media attention and an investigation was launched. Now, the plan has been abandoned (unless you are a customer who has chosen to keep it) and a Traffic Management Policy has been enforced.

Xtra Broadband Refund

As of 22 February 2007, Telecom has decided to refund all of its Go Large customers (approximately 60,000) starting from $130 per customer. This has been caused by the overwhelming complaints and criticisms Telecom Xtra has received due to their lack of action, over hyped promises and under-delivering of the Go Large plan. Customers who have been on the Go Large plan since 8 December 2006 until present, are entitled to $130-$160 credit refund. The refund may cost Telecom Xtra up to 7.5 - 8.5 million NZ dollars.

The credit refund is to be processed in customers' bills in March and April.

Some have speculated Xtra refunds their customers using bill credit rather than cash as a measure to prevent customers from switching to other ISPs, if the customers intended to use the money for that purpose.

Also, in addition to refunding customers, Telecom Xtra may also have to refund other smaller NZ ISPs as a result of manipulation and overpricing of wholesale prices set by Telecom for other ISPs to purchase. This refund may set Telecom Xtra back by a further 800,000 NZ dollars. This proposal is being considered by the Commerce Commission of New Zealand.

Xtra web portals

XtraMSN was one of the trading names of Telecom New Zealand's ISP Xtra, and was used as the branding for its default home page for customers. The present name came from a deal between Xtra and MSN, a merger of Xtra's homepage xtra.co.nz with Microsoft New Zealand's msn.co.nz

Several other MSN services besides the portal were cobranded with Xtra in the XtraMSN brand (e.g. Hotmail). Several versions of capitalising XtraMSN have been used by Telecom and Microsoft New Zealand in their promotional literature.

In 2007 Xtra changed to Yahoo in Microsoft's place. Their main portal is now yahooxtra.co.nz During the change over Telecom experienced much backlash over a change in email set up. Part of the agreement between Yahoo and Xtra provided that Xtras email addresses be moved over to Yahoo servers in Australia. This required settings changes in order for customers to access their YahooXtra "Bubble" email accounts. This required uses to change basic settings such as mail server, but also more advanced settings such as port numbers and authentication.

Yahoo!Xtra Bubble - Antispam Troubles

The move to Yahoo!Xtra Bubble has caused trouble for many small business owners and website hosting companies in New Zealand. Yahoo's aggressive antispam policies have caused business owners to lose bookings and have caused major delays for some customers in receiving emails.

The Dominion Post brought the problem to the fore with an article printed on the 26 November 2006, "Buck Passed as Mail Binned". The responsibility for the trouble has been shunned by Xtra who seem unable to make any changes to Yahoo's antispam filtering system. Xtra have pushed the blame back to the hosting companies, "Telecom spokesman Nick Brown denies there are technical problems with the service, and blames web-hosting companies for forwarding mail without filtering it first for spam." The trouble with their denial is that Xtra/Yahoo's email system also forwards spam in the same manner.

Reports of Xtra's email troubles are appearing on various blogs, forums and newsletters as people realise that emails are not arriving. New Zealand Tourism Online's October newsletter reported that they, "found several clients who have not been getting accommodation enquiry or booking emails due to the filter system.".

One of Xtra's solutions to the problem has been telling their users to add the sender of the email to their contacts list. This has caused the email be redirected to the inbox, but hasn't fixed the delays which are being caused by Yahoo's greylisting practice.

Up until December 2007 Yahoo have denied that they use greylisting practices, but the removal of the denial from their site, and the fact that their practices are in line with what greylisting actually is, seem to show otherwise. The immediate deferral of email by Yahoo's email servers can cause delays of many hours. This is a problem that Xtra have inherited by joining with Yahoo.

External links

References

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