Stephen Fry should admire our broadband

Stephen Fry should admire our broadband

Summary: What a whinging Pom Stephen Fry is! He's barely been in New Zealand two minutes, and he's already slagging off our broadband.


What a whinging Pom Stephen Fry is! He's barely been in New Zealand two minutes, and he's already slagging off our broadband.

The film star has branded it a "digital embarrassment", and says that Kiwis should "rise up" against providers like Telecom NZ.

Of course, it turns out that he was apparently simply staying in a house that had exceeded its monthly broadband cap, and had its speed throttled instead of having extra charges imposed.

The problem has been solved, and it seems that Fry is now happily tweeting away again, and enjoying more of our good coffee.

The trouble is that while it is easy to slam New Zealand's broadband, the country is progressing well, and has a good story to tell — which is something that we have been hearing about in Auckland this week.

I accept that our broadband is not perfect. It can be slow and unreliable, but let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

As a Pom myself, I have spent much of my recent time in the UK, and, while Sky provides fine home-based internet in my parents' Yorkshire village, the mobile internet sticks do not work, even though the village is large and barely 10km from the city of York.

In New Zealand, my Vodafone stick works pretty well by main roads, and in built-up areas. Many large towns and cities, like Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, even offer free Wi-Fi in their central business districts, something that I have yet to experience in the UK, even though I am told it exists in places like Swindon and Milton Keynes.

However, judging by the support he has received, Stephen Fry has struck a chord.

There remains much dissatisfaction in New Zealand at the state of broadband, at least judging by the audience at the Future With High-Speed Broadband conference, who no doubt all have vested interests in the matter.

Such critics are right in promoting the benefits of broadband, something highlighted by the the Alcatel-Lucent study released at the event, which reveals that high-speed broadband will boost the country's economy by NZ$33 billion over 20 years.

Industry figures also highlighted how faster broadband will benefit their sectors, and, naturally, we heard about benefits to education, health, teleworking, etc.

Thus, we all have a vested interest in ensuring that high-speed broadband arrives as quickly as possible and is widely used, with new applications for us all to use, as well.

Luckily, New Zealand has its Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative, and the release of the 700MHz spectrum from the digital TV switchover should help plug the gaps in rural areas — the place where many of the country's exports stem from.

Already, we have heard about how New Zealand has improved its global-broadband rankings, and telecommunications commissioner Dr Ross Patterson said on some OECD reports that New Zealand even has better broadband than Australia.

We in New Zealand and Australia must grapple with mountains, forests, deserts and huge areas of open countryside. We have massive projects to be funded by a relatively small population.

By contrast, the UK government doesn't face funding or subsidising various initiatives, and there is no all-encompassing initiative like we both have down under. Neither do the UK telcos and other providers face the geographic challenges that we have. They have a much larger population, too.

There are the global links to consider, too; both New Zealand and Australia are situated in a relatively isolated and lonely corner of the planet.

It is far easier for an overcrowded little island like Britain to roll out its broadband, being closer to the European landmass as well as the US.

Thus, rather than whinge, Stephen Fry might want to look at the challenges New Zealand and Australia face with our broadband networks. I am sure that rather than carp, he will instead admire the courage and vision of our countries with our pioneering, nationwide projects.

Topics: Broadband, New Zealand, NBN

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • Are you serious? You have got to be kidding. Broadband is unstable [lots of drop-outs], expensive [very expensive!!!], and slow. So, all and all, NOT very good. If the existing service is not up to standard, why are we being charged so much for an inferior product? This is another clasic example of being told one thing, when something very different is the truth.
    • How are them high speed smoke signals working for you then ?
      Azizi Khan
  • Are YOU serious, yank? With or withour your multiple exclamation marks!!!

    Fibre-based broadband is very stable and reliable, and will be fast enough (with normal upgrades) to provide our needs for the next fifty years at least.

    And with the level of competition that is developing among RSPs, it's now clear that it will be cheaper and much faster than the current ADSLxx systems.

    Could we politely suggest you might usefully garner a few facts before you sound off here?
  • Thanks for your comments.
    I expect me going against the flow would create some reaction.
    There appears too much consensus on the issue with much along the lines that 'something must be done' and it is up to government to provide.
    Well, this is what we are seeing.
    But was it all necessary? Could the private sector has delivered our NBNs?
    This New Zealand libertarian blog offers an interesting perspective, noting that government actions prevent the private sector from delivering the goods.
    And if NZ broadband is bad, it is because that is what Kiwis voted for!
    I thought I would toss this blogpost in for debate. It also refers to the Australian situation too.
    Darren Greenwood
  • [Side comment. The tab order on the commenting signup is wrong.]

    Last time I looked, the UK had mountains and forests. Pretty big ones, in fact. I'll give you a point for the lack of deserts.

    I know a chap who lives in Leeds who has 30/10 Mbit broadband with no cap. Exactly where in NZ - in any primary or secondary centre - can I even buy that? Let alone for the price he's paying. It's only in the last year or two that caps have been able to exceed 100GB (something Telecom still doesn't offer).

    Saying that we voted for our current state is disingenuous. If we all voted on the basis of our internet connections then I might be tempted to start the "Better Broadband Party" with a promise of all-you-can-eat fibre to every home in the nation. Oh, and there will be no public health service and all public transport will be privatised. That's how I'll pay for it. We vote on BALANCE.
  • Who is this fellow and does anyone really care what he thinks?
    Knowledge Expert
  • If you really want to make NZ BB better, there is a quiet simple way: REMOVE EARLY TERMINATION FEE. Remove it. Completely. By new law, act or whatever. Just let people choose service provider for free at any time. And you'll see what means "competition", "customer service" and "quality". When your customer could just stop giving you his money without explanations and "early termination slavery", you will care about the reasons, and you will care about the customers. And don't tell me about size or "hard territories" (like deserts, mountains or forests). Want to argue? Try to argue with russians, who has twice more territory-per-person size, all types of territories from deserts to ice, temperature range from +50 to -60 (from -30 at winter to +30 at summer for most territories). Just tell them that it's hard to have a good BB even in biggest cities (with more that 1M population). Tell them that they should pay more than 4% of salary for 60Gb over ADSL per month. Or that they should pay more than 2% of their salary to be connected to UFB with some rediculous 30GB data cup? Unfortunatelly, NZ has a not really good BB also because customer have to think twice before switching to other provider, other way he'll have to pay 2 months price as early , or wait till the end of contract. Want to know, what the want? Let them choose for free.