foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

How about: Three strikes and YOU are out, Xnet?

, posted: 20-Mar-2009 10:08

A recent article on TorrentFreak refers to investigations by the New Zealand Herald, highlighting the case of an Internet user being disconnected by Xnet, merely based on a single alleged copyright infringement. The Herald article states:
... WorldXChange ... says the company is using a system in some ways more draconian than Section 92a. ... "We took the commercial risk of terminating customers but there is nothing to stop those customers taking a swing at us. But most of my customers are residential - you just would not do it to a commercial player." ...

A broadband customer of WorldXChange's Xnet said his internet connection was shut down last year and he had no idea why. "I phoned them up and the technician told me they had received notification of someone from my ISP downloading material that infringed copyright.

"They said that they'd reinstate my internet, but that if they got one more it would be cut off permanently - two strikes, you are out."

A couple of things to note about this:
  • Did you notice the cynicism in WorldXChange's comment about most residential customers not daring to sue a company (like WorldXChange)? So, as TorrentFreak points out: Commercial customers are more likely to fight back against unjustified service termination. WorldXChange choses to focus on the easy targets.
  • It certainly sounds like the Internet user in question had not received any prior warning or notification by WorldXChange ("he had no idea why").
  • For some reason WorldXChange is not waiting for anything like Section 92a to become law to cooperate so fully with the media industry. Why are they so eager to annoy their customers and risk bad press along with it?
  • Note how the customer was told that they had "received notification" (one) about downloading stuff, and that the connection was terminated based on that apparently single accusation (1 strike). It was 'graciously' reinstated, with the warning that another accusation could lead to permanent termination (2 strikes). WorldXChange said that it is a 3-strikes 'law' they are implementing, so we have one word against the other. It would be interesting to see if other people have been disconnected without any (!) prior notification of any kind, or after less than '3 strikes'.
So, here's an idea then: Why don't WE as the Internet users give Xnet/WorldXChange a similar ultimatum as they give their users? We don't want to hear any more (proven or unproven) accusations like this against our ISP, or else we will seek alternatives. I don't want to support behaviour like this with my money. It is NOT acceptable to disconnect without prior warning and without chance to defend oneself. Don't do that again, or we will leave.

As TorrentFreak puts it:
... it is entirely possible that Xnet’s policy will stay in effect, at least until the sound of customers flocking to their competitors – voluntarily or after being ‘terminated’ – gets too much to bear.
Don't let it come to this, Xnet! Contrary to what you did with your customers, we are kind enough to give you a warning before we start to disconnect ... from you.

Other related posts:
Attack on net neutrality right here in New Zealand
ISP filtering in Australia: Think about the children!
Richard Stallman in Auckland: On copyright in a networked world

Comment by sbiddle, on 20-Mar-2009 12:17

I completely fail to see whythis issue has suddenly made the news. It's been discussed so many times here on GZ over the past few years.

As for all the negativity - any ISP can do exactly the same now under their terms & conditions. I would also argue it's had virtually zero impact on their customers and customer base, whereas their speed issues did.

BTW it's WorldxChange - not WorldExchange

Author's note by foobar, on 20-Mar-2009 12:30

@sbiddle: Thank you for pointing out the spelling mistake, I have corrected it.

I think the reason why it has made the news now is that just as Section 92a appears to lose some of its political backing, we have an ISP here that takes measures like this.

Writing about this was also inspired by TorrentFreak's recent coverage, as well as a recent discussion thread on Geekzone.

I think discussing things that need correcting are not limited to specific times anyway.

The terms and conditions of an ISP shouldn't leave their customers entirely unprotected against arbitrary accusations, potentially resulting in network disconnection without prior notice.

Comment by simon14, on 20-Mar-2009 12:37

I beleive XNET does this as an easy way to kick high end users off it's network to reserve bandwidth for other low end users. After all, 1 high end user could potentially account for 50 low end users in terms of bandwidth consumed and it would be more profitable to keep the 50 low end users than the 1 high end user.

They probably ignore notifications for people who don't try to download the internet.

Author's note by foobar, on 20-Mar-2009 12:52

@simon14: But shouldn't be there better ways to deal with high-bandwidth downloaders? I mean, honestly, it's not like Xnet is offering a flat rate or something. You either pay per GB or they lower your speed. Either way, they seem to be well protected.

Comment by Chris, on 21-Mar-2009 16:09

I am highly suspicious about the authenticity of this supposed person who had their account cut by Xnet.

First he says his connection was "shut down" and he had no idea why, and then he called his ISP. Well, how did he know it had been "shut down", instead of it just being a failure, such as a line fault or server failure? Nobody uses the term "shut down" when their internet goes off-line, but before contacting their ISP to find out why.

Secondly, when you contact your ISP you never know who you are talking to - so how come the customer is able to describe them as a "Technician"?

I really don't believe this person exists at ll, and if they do, how did the reporter find them in the first place? Also, a reporter would get confirmation of the type of material the person was downloading to build on the story.

The whole thing is a crock.

Comment by freitasm, on 22-Mar-2009 09:20

First as sbiddle mentions, WorldxChange has been terminating services for years on this basis.

The reason for that is that they (as almost all ISPs) have a T&C with words to the effect that if you are caught downloading copyrighted material you are out.

So no news here, probably just someone that wants to get more discussion on S92a again and used something like this to bring attention.

Over the last two or three years we had a few discussions on Geekzone - to the point where we decided to simply lock any discussion that started with "WorldxChange has locked my account..."

Most of the times these people say "I didn't do anything wrong", but down the discussion they say "well, yes, I downloaded such and such [programs | music | albums | movies]".

So here we go. An ISP that enforces their T&Cs, a bunch of self-confessed downloaders of copyrighted material and then a hysterical cry saying this is somehow related to the current political environment - which it is not.

I may not like copyright laws, but they are here - and have been for years. This is nothing new.

Comment by Dratsab, on 22-Mar-2009 13:46

@ Chris: TorrentFreak refers to the customer being disconnected, the Herald uses the term "shut down" but neither of them directly quote the source, if (as you point out) one actually exists.  This makes the terminology used a moot point.

An incredible amount of people are referred to as technicians these days.  Go into subway and you'll get served by a sandwich technician...

As for a reporter finding someone - people with a gripe are often happy to contact media outlets, so who's to say it wasn't the other way round.  Perhaps this "customer" knows someone at the Herald?

I'm not disagreeing about the dubiousness of the existence of the customer, there are possible explanations for your questions so they in themselves shouldn't lead to your scepticism.

Rather your scepticism should be driven by the question "what aren't we being told" which, when it comes to the media, is usually at least half of the story, as well as anything which doesn't quite fit with the reporters, and subsequently his/her editors, world view.

Objective reporters and ones capable of actual investigative reporting are exceptionally rare.

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New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
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