Hong Kong Internet service providers (ISPs) will soon end their blockade of a new Internet exchange that will compete with them in offering Internet access. IXTech, a private company that grew out of a Chinese University research project, had drawn protests from other ISPs which alleged it enjoyed an unfair competitive advantage. However, Internet Service Provider Association chairman Daniel Ng said it would recommend members end their blockade of Internet traffic to and from IXTech. He believed the blockade would be lifted in two weeks. At present, Internet traffic such as e-mail messages or Web-site downloads between IXTech and SAR ISPs must be diverted on to international routes rather than travel through the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, a Chinese University-operated central network point. This not only slows communication between parties, but costs them more. The blockade was initiated by the ISPA, which protested at IXTech using the university's internal 100 mbps Ethernet link to HKIX, which is also hosted on-campus. The ISPA felt that IXTech, which was set up by the Chinese University Foundation and, at the time, lacked a Pnets (public non-exclusive telecommunications service) licence required for all ISPs - was charging unfairly for Net services. But the university said those services were offered by the Centre for Internet Exchange Technologies, a government-funded research project, for research purposes only. IXTech had not launched any services at that time. IXTech general manager Wu Chang-ming said the CIXT research project would end this month. There would be no direct transfer of customers from CIXT to IXTech, as the corporate customers had the right to choose other ISPs. Mr Ng said the ISPA was satisfied with the university's clarification and reconfirmation of the status of IXTech as an independent commercial entity, with no privileges in using university resources such as the HKIX in offering Internet services. However, Mr Ng denied the ISPA's protest was due to its misunderstanding of IXTech, saying it had acted on members' complaints of unfair competition. He refused to further discuss the matter as it might hurt the ISPA's recently improved relationship with the university. Professor Joseph Hui, head of CIXT, said the blockade had not only damaged his project, but also the openness of the Internet and Hong Kong's prospects of becoming an Asian Internet hub. After two months of controversy, IXTech launched commercial services formally last week. It recently obtained a Pnets licence and became a member of the ISPA. It runs a commercial Internet exchange called HKCIX, which is based on Cubix (Chinese University Broadband Internet Exchange) technology licensed from the CIXT, to offer broadband Internet access. IXTech rents an ATM leased line from Hongkong Telecom which hooks up with HKIX to offer free local Internet access. Companies seeking access to Web sites located outside of Hong Kong must buy international 'transit' from a global ISP. AT&T is now the company's only global carrier partner. Also, IXTech will provide facility hosting and management services. Customers are allowed to place servers and networking equipment physically inside IXTech, which will monitor connections around the clock. Mr Wu said small and medium-size ISPs could save money through IXTech by being able to outsource much of their operations. Facility hosting and management services already were being offered by large ISPs such as Star Internet. However, ISPs rarely hosted and managed the equipment of another ISP. IXTech also would promote its free local bandwidth, which would benefit companies which had plenty of local traffic, Mr Wu said. With IXTech, a customer could obtain free local access from 64 kbps to 1.5 mbps and charged international access from 64 kbps to 512 kbps, he said.