Dear Nicky Kaye,
Hello from Great Barrier Island! Unfortunately we have become Great Barrier Island the land of unusable broadband and some of the residents on Barrier Chit Chat (Facebook Group) are no doubt sending you email right now. Anyway, I thought I would stick my oar in and give you a little bit of the history of the broadband problem from my point of view.
I live at the end of Mason Road, quite away from the exchange but was able to get good enough speed when we first connected to broadband several years ago. Even then, the exchange was at capacity and if you wanted to go on broadband you had to wait for someone to come off. This sometimes took six or so months as you were in the queue.
When the tower was constructed it sort of hit the community out of the blue, well, my part anyway. By the time it got to a public meeting it was a “tower or nothing” proposal and to make it worse the person at the public meeting knew nothing about Internet or Cell Towers. He was a sales person there to tell us the expected prices of signing up and service. The local board (or at least Paul Downie) were heavily interested in the tower as they believed providing cellphone service would bring more people to the Island and benefit locals. I have no idea whether that is true or not.
I also have no memory whether we used to have the Christmas speed slow downs before the tower. I think we did, but I don’t think it was as bad as it is now, nor as long. There has generally always been a problem on any holidays when everybody jumps online. I believe this is also to do with broadband right the way down Coromandel as we don’t join the main trunk until Hamilton.
And then the tower got built and started using the same network for a whole lot more customers and, to make it worse, video also became vastly more popular leading to large scale traffic problems for many of New Zealand’s ISP s.
Leaving aside the tower being a waste of money (read about that here http://squalidheights.nz/iriscafe/2016/03/05/rbi-great-barrier-island/ and how I think that comes about http://squalidheights.nz/iriscafe/2016/03/06/the-woes-of-great-barrier-island/) and concentrating on the current problem, we now have a large amount more data being transferred across an ageing infrastructure that wasn’t copping with the initial amount of data and this is effecting our ability to do everyday tasks such as use the Internet, or do backups.
I might be wrong as getting information on the workings of Chorus and Vodafone is nigh impossible, but I believe we are being hit by multiple problems at the same time.
- Coromandel infrastructure is still being upgraded.
- There has been a sudden increase in the use of video on and off Island.
- The tower relays through the old system instead of relaying straight to the mainland.
- The exchange was and is to old to maintain the island.
- The extra customers, from the tower, have overloaded the system.
- Over holiday periods the entire physical network from GBI to Hamilton overloads.
We may be the only RBI project where the increase in availability has led to a individual decrease in service.
We are now facing a scenario where the problems with broadband are effecting individuals, health providers and trusts on the Island (Aotea Health, Aotea Family Support Group, Great Barrier Island Community Health Trust), and no doubt businesses as well. If this continues we will be become more and more constrained both socially and economically leading to further lack of opportunities and more stress in a place that, while beautiful, is one of the economically poorest places in New Zealand.
At this point I am unsure what could be done to easily correct the problem. The installation of fibre on the island instead of a power hungry cell tower would have cured the local bottle necks but would still have left us exposed to the Coromandel situation. However, that money has been spent and to do fibre on the Island now would cost more than $3,000,000 in my estimate.
I would urge you to gather more information on the Islands telecommunication woes and ask some engineers to come up with a range of solutions. Already we stumble along at 7% of the national average broadband speed for 2015 (24.5 Mbit) and it looks like within a year we will be on the RBI version of dial-up. My fixed line speed at home is currently 0.96 Mbit. It used to be 1.8Mbit when I first arrived.
First reply and confirmation from Maggie Beaumont. Sunday, 6 March 2016 6:55 p.m. And, dammit, I got Nikki’s name wrong. Cest la vie.
Thank you for your e-mail to Hon Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, concerning Great Barrier Island broadband.
We have forwarded it to Chorus who advise us they have no plans to upgrade the infrastructure at this time due to the financial cost involved.
We have also written to the Minister of Communications, Hon Amy Adams, seeking her comment on the issues you have raised. We appreciate your comprehensive analyse of the situation.
The Minister will respond directly to you in due course, copying Nikki in.
Maggie Beaumont | Senior MP Support
Hon Nikki Kaye | MP for Auckland Central
48c College Hill, Freemans Bay, Auckland | PO Box 47-658 Ponsonby, Auckland City 1144
T: 09 378 2088
Reply from Rebecca Kearns.
Dear Mr Harre
Recently the office of Hon Nikki Kaye, Member of Parliament for Auckland Central, has been in contact regarding your email dated 6 March 2016 about inadequate internet services on Great Barrier Island.
This matter falls within the portfolio of Hon Amy Adams, Minister for Communications. As such I have placed your correspondence with the Minister for her consideration and response.