Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Not ultra, nor all that fast

Leave a Comment

Ultra-fast broadband availability is a government initiative to bring fibre optic technology to New Zealand homes, schools, hospitals, Marae and businesses. The cost was originally thought to be around $1.35 billion, but I suspect that figure will have escalated from when the plan was first unveiled some years ago.

The theory was that by boosting the capacity of around 98 per cent of New Zealand’s computers this would increase economic activity and productivity.

Apparently Masterton and Oamaru were the first towns in the country where the roll-out was completed.

I’m led to believe that the government has set aside $15 million for homeowners to access the new technology at no cost; once that amount has run out then you will have to pay for your own connection.

Businesses it seems are to pay for the installation themselves.

I decided to take advantage of this generous offer and rang my internet provider Spark to see if I might join the queue.

After finally getting through, the pleasant man at the end of the line seemed excited that I was taking up the offer and said they would attend to the request as soon as possible.

Initially two men from Chorus came and spent a couple of hours endeavouring to get a cable into our house via the underground telephone facility stationed outside on the footpath. It seemed there was a blockage in the cable tubing.

They said they would send someone more versed in the intricacies of advancing cables and a few weeks’ later two men from Downers arrived to examine the problem. They had driven up from Lower Hutt. They too failed to make the connection and said they would come back in a week or so and find another solution.

In the end they ran the cable along the fence and dug up a concrete path alongside our garage eventually leaving the exposed cable alongside the garage wall ready for the next step in the procedure.

A couple of weeks later two men from Chorus turned up and took the cable through the wall into the garage, up into the ceiling cavity and then down to my office to connect to the Wi-Fi modem alongside my PC. Underneath my desk they attached a couple of plastic boxes on the wall, one with constantly flashing coloured lights. They both looked, and probably were, expensive.

Now let me get this clear. I’m not complaining about any of this. The technicians were skilled and diligent and were the sort of people you don’t mind having in or around your home. It was a neat installation and virtually invisible to the naked eye.

What worries me though is the cost for this placement which the government in their infinite wisdom have kindly paid for.

I worked out that about 28 man hours were involved. Let’s say both Chorus and Downer’s invoice the government at a charge-out rate of $65 which would seem reasonable. We would arrive at figure of $1820. Add to the costs a couple of trips from and to Lower Hutt plus the cables and a variety of plain and flashing boxes and the whole installation must have been worth well over $2000.

All this so a couple of old-age pensioners can get a faster internet connection.

But now here’s the rub. I can’t determine any discernible difference in my internet reception or indeed any improvements to the tasks I perform on my computer.

I’m told if I were to download movies I would see the advantage immediately. But I don’t download movies, or at least I haven’t to date and if I did, how would that increase the economic activity of the country?

It’s not as though I don’t have enough gadgetry in the house to take advantage of this well intentioned government initiative. Apart from the PC that I am using to write this column we have an Apple laptop computer, two iPads, two iPhones and an Apple TV.

An Apple TV incidentally is not a TV as such, but a small square device that sits alongside your TV and wirelessly transfers the picture from your iPad on to your TV screen.

I’m starting to see why Apple is now the world’s largest company with a market capitalisation of $US700 billion, but ultra-fast broadband has made no difference whatsoever to the operation of their devices scattered around our home.

I suspect ultra-fast broadband is only of any real value to those commercial enterprises that download lots of large files and it would have been more rational to offer the free connection to these companies.

To spend $15 million on citizens to download movies seems a tragic waste from a government that is struggling to get its books back into surplus.

Mind you, it’s probably better than spending millions of dollars on a silly boat race in Bermuda.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” - P. J. O’Rourke


Post a Comment