The Federal Government’s Internet filter trial was rife with controversy and as an ISP participant, Highway 1 was right in the thick of it. With the trial now over, Highway 1 general manager, Nicholas Power, spoke to ARN about the ISP’s current stance on an Internet clean feed, his 2010 predictions and the company’s opportunity for resellers.
What is your company's background?
Nicholas Power (NP): Highway 1 launched in 1994 as an Internet provider in Perth and then expanded into greater Western Australian region. Our primary market is SOHO, SME and enterprise customers requiring broadband DSL, Ethernet and co-location. We differentiate ourselves by having a strong focus on customer service and a commitment to service level agreements in everything we deliver. We are still a relatively small ISP by national standards with less than 5000 customers; however, the majority have a number of high-value premium services with us such as multiple DSLs, MPLS and Ethernet networks.
In 2007, Highway 1 was acquired by the diversified IT group, ZettaServe, which provided us an the opportunity to reinvent the business. With its significant capital injection, we have been able to expand our services to the East Coast, establish a national MPLS network, and implement a new management and support structure. We have since refocused on our core offering, which is the provision of integrated connectivity solutions.
What are your predictions for the ISP market in the next 12 months – do you forecast any big changes?
NP: Over the next 12 months, we see continued consolidation in the ISP market. The residential market will be dominated by the big three. ISPs, like any other business, need to focus on their core markets and continually bring out new products at a service level and price that remains competitive.
The introduction of the Pipe PPC-1 will increase the available international bandwidth in the market and we’ve already seen this driving down prices in this space. We expect this to translate into higher data quotas for customers. I’m unsure if the possible acquisition of Pipe by SP Telemedia (Soul/TPG) will affect Pipe’s aggressive expansion into this area. Cloud services are also something we see as being a big part of the ISP market going forward. We’ll be focusing on leveraging our connectivity to customers and our datacentre space to offer and resell cloud hosting, utility computing and virtual servers.
What is your stance on ISP content filtering?
NP: We were one of the unexpected participants of the trial and it was an interesting process. Our intention for participating was to find out more but in reality, this did not eventuate. We found it to be as much of a black box as those people on the outside, who were asking us questions. The idea that ISPs should police their users is something we are against. As a smaller ISP, we’ve seen the significant cost required just to implement a trial. In the end, I don’t think this is a technical race that can be won.
What impact to you foresee the National Broadband Network (NBN) having on your company?
NP: This is very exciting for us, although I still think it is some time away. I see this as a great opportunity to get access to a national wholesale network with unprecedented coverage and speed. The focus for consumer offerings will shift towards rich content and businesses will be after completely integrated solutions.
Do you believe ISPs should be held legally accountable for what their customers share over the Internet?
NP: No, ISPs should not be held legally accountable. As has been mentioned in previous Q&As, drawing a comparison to misuse on telephony networks is very apt. Effectively, ISPs are only a conduit.