Internet upgrades

Internet Upgrades

It looks like the Local Board and everybody contacting Chorus and Ministers with their concerns might be having some effect. Amy Adams sent this the other day.

Internet Upgrades

Dear Mr Harre

Thank you for your email dated 6 March 2016 to Hon Nikki Kaye, Member of
Parliament for Auckland Central, regarding broadband services on Great Barrier
Island. The matters you raise fall within my portfolio responsibilities as Minister for
Communications, and have therefore been forwarded to me for response.

I can understand your frustrations and share your concerns that some
New Zealanders are not able to receive a satisfactory internet connection because of
where they live. That is why this Government has committed to lifting New Zealand’s
broadband performance, and the first phases of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and
Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) programmes are well on their way to delivering
faster speeds to 97.8 per cent of New Zealanders by 2020.

As a Minister of the Crown, I am unable to intervene in the business operations of
private companies, such as Chorus and Vodafone. However, I have asked my
officials to provide an update on broadband availability on Great Barrier Island. I
understand that you may have already received information from the office of Hon
Nikki Kaye in relation to your email so you may already be aware of some of the
information below.

Chorus has confirmed that it has recently made the decision to upgrade two existing
cabinets on Great Barrier Island by June 2016. This upgrade will improve the speeds
of existing connections and will allow for new customers to be connected. These
upgrades, however, will not extend to the entire Island.

If you still reside at Mason Road, much of the information in my previous letter to
you (reference CITAA1415-410) remains current. It is unlikely that the planned
upgrades will improve the broadband connection to your address. The primary
reason you experience slow speeds at your address is due to your distance of more
than 6km from the cabinet that delivers broadband services to your area. This is
beyond the theoretical limit of ADSL.

I note your comments about slow internet speeds on Great Barrier Island generally.
Chorus has confirmed that, although broadband services are linked to the mainland
(the backhaul link) by Digital Microwave Radio in the Waikato, broadband speeds on
Great Barrier Island are not affected by services in the Waikato. Furthermore,
infrastructure upgrades in the Coromandel have no adverse impact on the
infrastructure that provides services to Great Barrier Island.

Vodafone has confirmed that the RBI towers providing fixed-wireless services to the
Island also use Chorus backhaul. The use of Chorus’ fibre does not impact the
fixed-line access network on Great Barrier Island.

Vodafone has advised my officials that it has a long term commitment to Great
Barrier Island and has managed to provide considerable increased coverage over the
last three years. However, it does not currently have plans for further upgrades.

When planning future upgrades, Vodafone takes into account area population,
potential demand, initial deployment costs, ongoing maintenance and future upgrade
requirements. Upgrading a network outside of Government programmes is a
commercial decision on the part of private companies, such as Vodafone, and will be
driven by network priorities. I am unable to intervene in such decisions.

I note your comment that it would have been desirable to deploy UFB to Great
Barrier Island instead of fixed-wireless broadband under the RBI. While the
Government would like to be able to provide UFB to all, the cost of deployment in
areas with difficult terrain and low population densities means this is not currently
possible, and we have had to prioritise.

Please be assured that this Government is actively seeking ways to help improve
broadband coverage across New Zealand, particularly in rural and more remote
areas. To this end, the Government is extending the UFB programme, entering the
second phase of the RBI programme, and establishing a new Mobile Black Spot
Fund which focuses on areas of state highways and tourism areas that currently
have no coverage. With combined funding of up to $360 million, it is intended that
mobile and broadband coverage will be expanded to many communities across
New Zealand under these programmes.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Amy Adams
Minister for Communications

Great Barrier Island broadband

Broadband

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 RBI Great Barrier Island and how I think that comes about 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.

Yours sincerely,
Tane Harre.

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.

Maggie Beaumont Reply

Hi Tane

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.

Kind Regards

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

E: mp.aucklandcentral@parliament.govt.nz

www.nikkikaye.co.nz

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.

Kind regards

Rebecca