ISPs reject OpenNet proposal

ISPs reject OpenNet proposal
Contractors installing OpenNet cables. The company was fined $240,000 in May and $200,000 last November over installation delays.

Four years into its operations and even after a change in ownership, the company that runs Singapore's ultra-fast fibre broadband network is still at odds with Internet service providers (ISPs) over service delays.

The latest disagreement took place during a public consultation held by the authorities which ended on Monday, to improve the agreement that OpenNet has with ISPs who buy its fibre links wholesale.

All five ISPs here unanimously rejected a proposal by OpenNet which it claimed would help it speed up customer installations.

OpenNet had suggested that ISPs supply it with a forecast of daily broadband orders 90 days in advance, so it could set aside manpower to fulfil their installation. If actual orders were to fall short of 90 per cent of the daily forecast, the ISPs would have to pay OpenNet a yet-to-be-decided "commitment fee".

SingTel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest objected to the proposal, saying it was akin to OpenNet rejecting its responsibility to manage its own manpower.

"It is not reasonable for OpenNet... to absolve this responsibility and transfer it to the ISPs through the imposition of binding commitments or penalties," said M1.

StarHub and ViewQwest said the suggestion would be bad for fibre broadband users as it would result in "artificial" delays as ISPs would lower their forecasts to avoid paying a penalty fee. Should market demand suddenly spike, delivery delays would persist.

"This uncertainty is the result of a competitive market," said StarHub.

"The only beneficiary from (the proposal) is OpenNet."

Currently, ISPs book an appointment with OpenNet when they receive an order for broadband, then wait for an OpenNet worker to activate the fibre links before carrying out installations for a home or business customer.

A series of installation delays over the past year led to OpenNet being fined S$240,000 in May and S$200,000 last November.

OpenNet said delays often occur because building management committees refuse access to in-house fibre links.

To get around this, it also suggested that it be able to reject an order for broadband when building management delays last more than two months.

ISPs also rejected this proposal, saying it would not encourage OpenNet to resolve the problem for future customers in the same location.

This would in turn hamper the take-up of fibre broadband services, which runs contrary to the IDA's objectives.

Several ISPs also want authorities to force OpenNet to pay higher compensation to ISPs for extended delays in service deliveries, especially to business customers.

"This is necessary to effectively address the serious performance issues, particularly in the non-residential segment, where unexplained delays of more than six months are commonplace," said M1.

OpenNet was sold by its four shareholders - SingTel, SP Telecommunications, Singapore Press Holdings and Canada's Axia NetMedia - to a SingTel business trust called NetLink Trust last November.

This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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