Major Aussie ISP Telstra BigPond shafts open source OpenOffice

December 18, 2007

Major Aussie ISP Telstra BigPond shafts open source OpenOffice Australia’s largest Internet service provider Telstra BigPond has removed the free open source office suite OpenOffice from its unmetered file download area following the launch of its own, free, hosted, office application, BigPond Office.

The removal of OpenOffice was brought to our attention by a reader, who complained to Telstra’s support department about no longer being able to download OpenOffice updates. His first complaint was met with the following response:

BigPond is in the process of refreshing our File
Downloads service and this has resulted in the removal of various
files which have previously been listed. Due to a recent business
decision these files won’t be reinstated. Please visit BigPond
Files for further updates.

Our reader, an IT veteran with more than 25 years experience in the IT industry, than asked support why OpenOffice was removed, pointing out that the file download request page makes no mention of an invalid file criteria due to ‘business reasons’. He received this surprisingly honest email:

With the launch of BigPond Office, the OpenOffice downloads were removed
to ensure we were not offering competing products. If there are specific
OpenOffice files you require, which are not available as part of the
BigPond Office suite - please resubmit your request.

Our reader was outraged by Telstra’s move, which he sees as an attack on the open source software movement.

“The principle of the matter upsets me,” he said. “The fact that BigPond has removed previously allowed open source software is un-ethical. They are discriminating against me, even though I pay the same as other customers.  They are attacking the Free Software movement.”

“You can’t offer a service and then suddenly change the rules because you know no-one can do anything about it. If you look at BigPond’s rules for a ‘valid file’, it has omitted to mention that files that ‘compete’  with its products are ‘invalid’ … BigPond needs to update the rules on its file request web page.

“Although, one could argue, that customers could easily download the software directly, but then what exactly is BigPond’s point?  To punish its customers? ”

While I’m very sympathetic to our reader’s outrage, I’m not sure that what Telstra has done is necessarily unethical. It’s a commercial enterprise and it can use its discretion, to some degree, about what services it chooses to provide — even though, as our reader points out, it doesn’t spell out that it won’t host software that competes with services it offers.

However, Telstra BigPond’s action is unquestionably petty, and will no doubt generate ill feelings amongst the open source community.

The action also seems to be driven by a lack understanding of what BigPond Office is actually about. As a hosted online application, BigPond Office is useful for people who want to access their documents from different machines; it’s not really a viable alternative to Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. BigPond Office is competing with the likes of Google Docs, and is really only of interest to BigPond users who can access BigPond Office without using up their monthly bandwidth quota. It’s highly unlikely that someone would download OpenOffice, instead of signing up for BigPond Office.

So, come on Telstra BigPond, show some good will, and reinstate OpenOffice in the BigPond File Download area; banning it only demonstrates pettiness and ignorance.

Update 21 Dec 2007: Bigpond has updated its unmetered File Download page to advertise the Bigpond Office.

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22 Responses to “Major Aussie ISP Telstra BigPond shafts open source OpenOffice”

  1. Pleon Asmic:

    Unfortunately, their policy do state they can change the rules and offerings at anytime. Probably wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, but who is going to fight them?

  2. aeschenkarnos:

    Why would a FOSS advocate use BigPond? It’s the Microsoft of Australian ISPs.

  3. JohnB:

    Telstra still have customers? After all the crap and restrictions they’ve imposed on people? Wow!

    Maybe we need a national day of action to churn any members of our families over to another provider.

    WAKE UP Telstra, no-one gives a hoot about your business, they just want decent and affordable broadband (as opposed to “broadband” that they’re peddling).

  4. Slick:

    I guess they admit Open Office is better because they consider another FREE product competition.

  5. RogerH:

    Not to mention thinkfree has shafted themselves in aus and nz. You can’t signup to thinkfree unless you are with bigpond – hello…. for starters bigpond don’t even service NZ.

    Clearly NZ is a small market, but it calls into question how vunerable online applications are to short sighted corporate decisions.

  6. Doug:

    Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. The point of an unmetered download area is to reduce traffic Telstra have to pay for resulting from customers repeatedly accessing large files external to their network. Now oos downloaders will have to get it direct instead of the (cheaper for Telstra) localized copy. Yeah maybe their proxy caching might save the day but given they can’t even reverse DNS I’m not holding my breath they’ve set one up at all…

  7. Howard:

    Yes, Hel$tra do still have customers, I am one, after my original DSL provider stuffed up a transfer from one line number to another and lost the allocation at the exchange. Hel$tra wouldn’t help them out to regain the lost slot so I had no choice but to go to the fount head and sign up as a Bigpond sufferer.

  8. Phil:

    Oh Yeah! The 3 Amigos strike again! Trujillo, the 21st Centuries “MR T”. What a thought!

    I reckon it is just about time that a concerted effort be made to basically wipe this team of creeps from the face of the Internet.

    Alright some unfortunate people are currently stuck with Telstra because of varying reasons including Telstra’s own choking of the system. For any other sane, rational, responsible person out there I abdicate that if you are currently a Bigpond subscriber do yourself a favour and drop them like a hot potato! If enough stink is made of all their devious business practices then eventually something meaningful will have to be done. Keep throwing rocks folks, LOTS of them!!!

    Telstra do not deserve ANY loyalty whatsoever from their subscribers because they do absolutely nothing to deserve it. All that seems to be of critical importance is the size of the annual bonus that a few specific executives pick up. Users, who are they?

  9. Mark:

    To all the afflicted (If you’re reading this page and you’re still on Testra, you ought to have your geek license revoked) You’re more than welcome to join Internode. 12 Terabytes of mirrored, unmetered and unrestricted downloads! When you’re over your limit, you can still browse this cache at full speed! – check it out!

    You won’t regret the change. TRUST ME. :3

  10. Graham:

    aeschenkarnos writes:

    “Why would a FOSS advocate use BigPond? It’s the Microsoft of Australian ISPs.”

    True but I and many others are very reluctant Telstra customers because there is absolutely no alternative. I live in rural Asutralia where I can’t even get a phone line, let alone ADSL or cable. My only option is wireless and the only supplier is Telstra and my ISP is therefore PondScum. It is expensive, the bit-rate is rubbish, the download cap is disgraceful and there are many other drawbacks to the service – but that’s monopolies for you.

    Now they have removed OpenOffice from their free downlod site because some idiot in Marketing can’t see the difference between this and their own miserable hosted offering. If there was anyone else to give my business to, I would. Like a shot!

  11. Colonel:

    Unfortunately many people in Australia only have 2 choices for internet services. Dial up or BigPond cable.

  12. David:

    it looks like they’ve made a deal with MS to provide a branded Office Like application. BigPond couldn’t have developed this, it was commissioned for sure.

  13. Rhys:

    I can’t believe that so much fuss is being made over a non-event.

    will open office updates really take that much off your cap?

    that Bigpond will host large files at all is a bonus – they don’t have to do it. And it is competing with their product, although there is a blurred line, you’ll find sme’s which Bigpond target probably won’t be able to tell where this line is. Not everyone is a geek.

    This is not a slight against the open source movement – if it was then they would be hosting Microsoft Office downloads!

    Bigpond is a business… deal with it.

  14. David:

    Just give ‘em a few more months…they’ll be like comcast. Preventing (some legit, some not) BitTorrent downloads, giving limited amounts of “unlimited bandwidth” and a few other “features” along the way.

  15. mikko:

    Telstra is taking great strides at becoming a very efficient and successful small buisness. open office is freely available all over the place anyway .just one more reason not to visit their pond

  16. Don:

    Rhys, its the principle of the matter, and the fact that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Its about user choice, and fantastic customer service. ISPs should be in the business of providing what their clients require, not the other way around.

    Infact, superior customer, service means tweaking your business to the needs of the client.

  17. Ole Juul:

    I’m very much pro open source, but I agree with Rhys, this is really a non-event and you can get Open Office anyway. BigPond may very well be an unsavory monopoly so there are no doubt much better things to complain about. This story is really grasping at straws.

  18. John:

    Rhys asked:

    >will open office updates really take that much off your cap?

    Well, yes, they will. An OOo upgrade is typically
    about half a month’s quota (200 MB) for Bigpond’s
    cheapest (and most popular) plan.

    It’s worse that they removed free anti-virus updates. They charge for their own anti-virus

  19. David Pastern:

    Well, that’s a good reason to switch from Bigpond isn’t it?

    As to taking legal action against Telstra, if the ACCC is having problems legally with Telstra, then the ordinary person will as well I suspect ;-)

    Better to vote with your feet and change ISPs.

    This is what happens when you privatise a public utility – the same thing is now happening with the electrical energy providers.

    You can thank Johnny “boy” Howard for this mess.


  20. minkley:

    Telstra are tough tackle legally by any standards, because apparently, at any time, they engage Advocates from around 20 of top legal firms in NSW – which makes them unavailable to anyone who might want to litigate Telstra.

    So you probably won’t find a decent lawyer to support you with any legal action against Telstra.

  21. wildpossum:

    Looks like Asterisk is also on their ban list, maybe it competes with their landlines?

    This is an automated email from the BigPond Files Request System. Your file request (for the file at, described as ‘Trixbox CE v2.4 ISO’) has been declined.

  22. Jacob Schlink:

    Howdy just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.|

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