Goodwill gesture after broadband outage criticised

 Telecom's goodwill gesture in the wake of last week's broadband outages has drawn criticism from customers who already get free national calls.

The company said it would offer free landline to landline calls within New Zealand on Christmas Day following widespread broadband outages over two days last week.

The faults left hundreds of thousands of customers without internet access for up to 19 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, less than a fortnight after an unrelated broadband outage late last month.

Telecom said the free calls on Christmas Day would be available to all fixed-line customers, not just those affected by the broadband outages.

Retail chief executive Chris Quin said the company wanted to show customers it understood how frustrating the outages had been.

"This is our way of saying 'we're sorry, we know how important it is to you to stay connected, and we want to make it that much easier for you to connect with family and friends this Christmas'."

Mr Quin said it was a meaningful gesture for home broadband customers, all of whom had a Telecom fixed line phone service as well.

But the gesture has drawn criticism from Telecom customers who already get free national landline calls as part of their phone contract - about 15 per cent of the company's broadband customers.

Many of the almost 900 comments on Telecom's Facebook page have been dismissive of the offer.

Palmerston North woman Raewyn McBain said it gave her "sweet nothing" and a credit to her account would have been better.

Christchurch man Noel Turner said his local calls to family would have been free anyway, and the apology was empty.

"Was this 'apology' worked out by the same idiot who f'd up the system in the first place?"

Catherine Champion of Dunedin said Christmas was a time when many people would be with loved ones anyway.

"What about coming up with an apology that is more than an empty gesture?"

Some people commented that Telecom would have offered free calls on Christmas Day anyway.

On its Facebook page, Telecom responded that it had considered a few options, including free data and pro-rata compensation.

"We thought this was the best way to say thanks at Christmas time, and soon after the issues that caused the whole thing in the first place."

It said Christmas was "one of the busiest calling days of the year" and it was not always free to make national calls on the day.

"...we hope as many folk as possible take up the offer to get in touch with loved ones, family or friends."

Telecom said the gesture would be "a little hard to take" for customers who already got free landline calls - but it hoped more than 120 free Wi-Fi hotspots at popular holiday spots this summer would make up for it.

Details of the Wi-Fi hotspots, planned before the outages, would be announced tomorrow.

Telecom spokeswoman Jo Jalfon said the free landline-to-landline calling was not supposed to be seen as compensation.

"It's just really a goodwill gesture to all customers, because not all customers were obviously impacted by the outage," she said.

"Telecom sincerely apologises for the inconvenience that it did cause those people, but hopefully this is just a nice way for people to be able to connect with their friends and family at a special time of the year."

The faults last week meant customers had broadband issues for about 19 hours over two days, with two-thirds of the downtime in the early hours between midnight and 6am.

The main fault occurred during a software upgrade on a broadband server on Tuesday morning. Flow-on issues affected the network from later that night until about 10am the next day.

Last month, the company ruled out compensation after an unrelated fault with a fibre-optic cable left about 25,000 mainly residential customers without broadband.