Karoo and Kcom hitting the headlines

Over the past few weeks, the Google Alerts service has been steadily racking up alert after alert for the keywords Kcom and Karoo. We’ve never known such news coverage about our local ISP / teleco!

There has been a huge amount of coverage around broadband in the UK, and also on our region over the past months, and there seems to be a real groundswell of interest, change and opinion. So, onto the news….

karoo alerts

“Plug pulled on suspected pirates”

pirates Karoo

Tim Johns, the Breakfast Show Producer from BBC Humberside broke the story on the morning of Friday 24th July, on his show, and they even had Rory-Cellan Jones, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent on the show commenting on the story. The story was widely reported on across many websites and blogs, and also featured on the BBC Look North programme.

Now file sharing is illegal (in some cases when copyright is involved), and continues to get headlines this week (see story about US file-sharer getting fined $700,000). There was also this story about  a fake DVD factory operation being busted here – and yes, there is no surprise to see that they got a lot of their pirated material from the web.

The story was all about the fact that Karoo, immediately cut off users when there is an accusation from a copywrite holder, that there has been some illegal file-sharing. This goes against the general ISP policy where there are “3 strikes and you are out”, i.e. you get 3 warnings and then cut off.

Personally, here at the Hull Digital command bunker, we would be royally brassed off if we were cut off without warning, and for people who make their living using the web, or rely on it for certain services, it would be hugely frustrating. The bottom line is that many people use file sharing / torrents to get material which they shouldn’t. However, there are many legitimate reasons for file sharing, and so there can be a real difficulty identifying which is which.

Due to the outcry that this story created, within 24 hours, Karoo actually changed their policy:

Karoo’s piracy policy featured on Look North Friday 24th July 2009 from Hull Digital on Vimeo.

The about face was made following a BBC story outlining the firm’s practice.

Karoo issued a statement on Friday, saying that it has been “exceeding the expectations of copyright owners”.

The firm will now adopt a “three strikes” rule, in which suspected file-sharers will receive three written warnings before action is taken.

“We have always taken a firm line on the alleged abuse of our internet connections,” said Nick Thompson, director of consumer and publishing services, in the statement.

This to us makes a lot of sense, and seems to follow the trend that the once brick walled enclosure of the company, is coming down, and critically they are listening to customers and consumers. Make no mistake, they realise the importance of this, and we see there is an appetite to improve. To get warnings and then being cut off is very fair, and we have no issue with this whatsoever.

Whatever the fallout is from this story, it has certainly brought our local ISP to the attention of many more people across the UK.

In other news…

As well as this story, there was also a Look North report on Thursday evening this week about a “new” option for Hull residents wanting phone and broadband services. From our knowledge this is something that is actually not new, and is related to KCom selling some of their lines to resellers. We will get some clarification shortly.

Fibrestream announce the “Daddy of all broadband”

Other options for broadband / telecommunications are starting to appear in the city, and the local company Fibrestream have announced “the Daddy of all Broadband” coming to Great Thornton Street Estate in Hull in the near future.

ISPs not telling the whole truth, just some of the truth

More general broadband news also appeared recently on a national level, with the headline that “Broadband rates not up to speed”. This was covering the fact that the vast majority, if not all ISPs state speeds “up to Xmb” but very rarely deliver anyway near the headline speed, and the details behind this are left in VERY small print.

From a communication point of view for all broadband providers, we advocate being open, transparent, and easy to understand. Consumers are clever people, and they know, (and don’t like) when they are getting the marketing message rather than the real message. It goes back to the very useful principle, “under promise, and THEN over-deliver”, and never the other way round.

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  • http://theusualsuspect.com John Polling

    Recently I heard an interesting idea for why Karoo were cutting users off so quickly. It was not because of the content of the files being share, but more the amount of bandwidth being taken up by some of the users, and the load on a crumbling network. So by cutting off those users Karoo didn’t have to worry about investing so heavily in their infrastrucutre to improve the network performance for all their users.

    I’ve certainly noticed my connection speed has dropped since Karoo changed their practice. Maybe this is just a coincidence!

  • http://daveyspeedstar.com Dave Harding

    Shortly after Tim’s report I blogged about how the anomiliy of Hull having it’s own telephone system, company and ISP came about:

    http://www.daveyspeedstar.com/index.php/home/other-blogs/33-computers-a-technology/225-why-hull-has-only-one-isp

  • http://twitter.com/naesk Sean Kelly

    Good to hear that KCom are no longer acting as Judge, Jury & Executioners regarding this matter.

    As a result of the recent news coverage Tom Watson a Labour MP for West Bromwich East, posted the following message on Twitter;

    “Karoo. Very naughty monopoly supplier of the internet in Hull. Mend your ways.”

    http://twitter.com/tom_watson/status/2820360592

    In addition to this, especially in light of the Digital Britain report on the importance of connectivity, he also expressed his concerns on his blog by writing to Lord Carter’s office;

    I’ve written to Lord Carter about it (yes I know he’s gone but his office will still be processing letters). Here’s what I’ve said:

    Karoo and File Sharing

    I would like to bring to your attention my concerns, and those of many in the digital community, about the unfair file sharing policy of Karoo, the sole internet service provider in Hull.

    As I understand it, web users suspected of file-sharing are being cut off without warning by Karoo and are being forced to sign a document promising not to repeat the offence in order to get their service restored. Karoo is undertaking such action without any legal intervention or right of appeal, and has even been charging users for reconnection on the second and third ‘offence’.

    In my view, the actions of Karoo clearly contravene the Department’s thinking on file sharing, as set out in the Digital Britain report, which said disconnection was not the Government’s “preferred option” given that internet access is now seen to be as critical as traditional utilities such as electricity.

    As a monopoly supplier in Hull, Karoo clearly has a bigger responsibility than other internet service providers to operate a file sharing policy that is both fair and proportionate. With no other telecoms company in Hull, there is a real risk that this policy, which is neither fair nor proportionate, risks denying people access to a basic right such as the internet.

    The Government’s proposals to tackle illegal file sharing involve sending warning letters and court action before technical measures can be imposed. This approach should be adopted to stop consumers, especially Karoo’s customers, from being treated this way in the future.

    I would welcome your comments on this matter and hope you may be able to exert your influence on Karoo to amend this unfair policy.

    http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/2009/07/karoo/

  • http://www.radiotim.co.uk Tim Johns

    Oh, and by the way – Karoo have now said they won’t be disconnecting anyone WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. Another big step in the other direction.

    The news came out after Torrentfreak wrote to Karoo digging for more information on exactly how they were going about it all.

    See what they had to say here:

    http://torrentfreak.com/karoo-wont-disconnect-pirates-without-a-court-order-090810/