Westnet braces for customer price backlash

ISP Westnet has experienced a barrage of online criticism over planned price increases for its broadband plans, but the company says that it has no choice if it wishes to maintain a viable service.

Westnet

Internet service provider Westnet has experienced a barrage of online criticism over planned price increases for its broadband plans, but the company says that it has no choice if it wishes to maintain a viable service.

Details of the price rises -- which see as much as AU$20 added to the price of some broadband plans -- leaked onto the Whirlpool forum last week, and led to some current customers threatening to shift from the Perth-based ISP. The price changes -- which see most broadband plans rise by AU$5 or AU$10 a month, but offer a AU$10 discount to customers who also bundle Westnet's telephone service -- were confirmed on the company's site today.

Chris Thomas, who founded Westnet in 1994 and currently serves as research and development manager, said that while the company always anticipated some counter-reaction to the new pricing and anticipated that some customers would leave, it was a commercial necessity to alter the plans to maintain viability.

"We realised once we did this that people were going to assume that we put the prices up simply to move people onto bundles, but it wasn't like that," Thomas told CNET.com.au's sister site ZDNet Australia. Margins on broadband are slim compared to PSTN services, he said, and the latter could help offset the increased costs of providing ADSL.

Despite having officially been on holiday, Thomas said that he had spent much of last week responding to Whirlpool posts discussing the price changes.

Thomas also confirmed that the company has no plans to build its own ADSL2 network, despite having installed one experimental DSLAM to assess the technology. Westnet is, however, in active negotiation with several other providers to purchase wholesale access to ADSL2 and ADSL2+ services.

"Everyone wants to wholesale this stuff, but someone's going to have to be the customer," Thomas said. Some form of ADSL2 service should be available by year's end, he said.

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