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

Broadband Survey

Broadband Survey Results

Two weeks ago I placed an ad in the Barrier Bulletin asking people to give us the results of a test on their broadband. then things went wrong, people were unable to load the page because the internet was to slow, Sparks broadband speed test decided to fail, etc…. but 24 people replied with 32 entries. And, although that isn’t enough people or entries to make any definite observations, I though I would give you a run down of the results so far. On multiple entries by the same person I have taken the best result, because I’m an optimist……I have discounted one entry as I believe that person is also an optimist.

RBI Wireless came out in front with the highest score of 11.3Mbps download speed with results from 5 people. However, one of those entries was 0.49Mbit/sec which brought down the average speed with RBI Wireless to 7.17Mbps.

Next in line was ADSL with a high score of 5.9Mbits/sec download speed with results from 16 people. The lowest was 0.1Mbps with the average download speed for ADSL being 1.69Mbps.

Satellite came third with entries from two people with the highest being 3.97Mbps and the lowest being 0.4Mbps.

What does this mean? Well, nothing really. There aren’t enough entries yet to come to any conclusions apart from please keep filling in the form. And not just when your internet is bad, if you are having a good day then fill it in then as well. The wild variability of the broadband speeds on the Island is one of the problems that needs to be addressed.

As a final consideration think of this. The highest speed recorded so far in the survey is 11.3Mbps. That is less than half the average speed in New Zealand and with that average speed being forecast to reach 75Mbps by the end of the year. It is also more of a ratio than when we moved from 56kbps dial-up to 256kbps broadband, back in the day…..

Thank you to everyone who entered their broadband speed. Please keep on doing so, the more data we get the more information we have.

Preliminary results

Broadband Survey Results

So, we have some preliminary results. Not nearly enough people have done the test yet and some have tried but said,”The Internet was to slow” which is terrible. To make things worse I have heard that the Port Jackson Tower was being worked on and that threw the network out a bit as well.

Still, things aren’t looking good. Out of 29 entries 15 are below 1Mbit. The highest is 11.3Mbit with Vodafone as the provider and that is from the RBI Wireless connections. Already the survey has pointed out a couple of areas that appear to have problems, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to live on Blackwell Drive, but we really need more data. And now, considering the Port Jackson maintenance may have affected things, it might be a good idea to see if you can beat your old score (for better or worse) in a couple of days.

No northerners yet either. If your Internet is too slow then keep on trying folks. If you can’t load a single page then I don’t know what you are paying for.

Preliminary Results

Preliminary Results

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

The woes of Great Barrier Island

Woes of Great Barrier Island

For all its woes, Great Barrier Island is one of the greatest places in the world to live. That amazing thing about that statement is that it still holds true after all that gets thrown at the island, or not thrown as the case may be.

There are some major problems that have arisen over the years due to the governance of small isolated populations in New Zealand. They aren’t on purpose, as far as I can tell, they are structural and built into the way we govern to provide fairness, transparency, and prevent corruption for the majority of the population. Note that word, “majority”. What this word means is that if you are a small island community then you get what you are given or nothing at all.

Roading

Let’s take roading. There was once upon a time Island based contractors. Actually there still is. The problem is that they can only operate by being hired by the off island contractors who have already taken any profit out of the contract. And, from a high level perspective this looks fine. Auckland council doesn’t want to have to deal with thousands of small contractors so they contract out for the whole of Auckland. But, there are only two contractors big enough to tender for Auckland. Those two contractors are Fulton Hogan and Downers. One of those companies always ends up with the contract. Unfortunately, each of them is only big enough to do half the job so they hire the other one to do the rest of it. So which ever company wins the negotiations for the contract, the same companies end up doing the contract and then there is a private negotiation between them over who gets to do what parts of the contract. On Great Barrier we currently have Fulton Hogan.

So there we go. Lets say Downers wins the contract undercutting Fulton Hogans bid, then there is the negotiation where Fulton Hogan gets to do the work on the Barrier. So now Downers is taking a slice of the profit, and then Fulton Hogan is taking another slice of the profit and down it comes to the Barrier where they hire at the cheapest rate possible the same group of people and machinery they did before. That’s stupid from an Island perspective, but perfectly sensible from the Council one.

RBI

The same thing happened with the Rural Broadband Initiative. Chorus and Vodafone got the contract, they divided the contract between them and Vodafone got Great Barrier Island. The Island was then approached with Vodafone’s solution to increasing broadband on the Barrier and were told that if we didn’t take it then there would be no investment at all. Added to this, a lot of people wanted to be able to use cell phones on the island so they voted for the tower or nothing solution on the basis that if it didn’t improve broadband at least tourists would be able to answer their phones.

The problem is that Vodafone’s solution isn’t a good solution on the Island. It should never have been chosen, especially as a way to enable people to use their cell phones (Yes, I know technically cell phones use the Internet but it is a limited usage). For the same amount of money almost the entire Island could have had fibre optic and an energy efficient exchange instead of a cell tower that uses a huge amount of solar panels and then runs generators at night. The fibre network would have enabled the island fit for purpose broadband for maybe twenty years into the future whereas the cell tower has power constraints meaning that when we go to 5g or 6g (or whatever future may hold) the tower will either require increases in power supply (more generators at night) or decreases in transmission area (less people with broadband).

ADSL

Finally, the added traffic from the tower is going through the existing (old) network, degrading the broadband for those on the wired network to a sometimes unusable state. It would be interesting if someone could find out whether we have actually had a net increase in the amount of broadband at all, or if we have just divided the existing pie amongst another two hundred(?) connections.

 

Internet on Great Barrier Island

Slow Internet on Great Barrier island

On the 03/06/15 I sent an email to Amy Adams office bemoaning the state of Internet on Great Barrier Island.

Slow Internet on GBI Email

Dear Minister, your government lent over a million dollars to Vodafone
to build a call tower to provide better internet on Great Barrier
Island. The Prime Minister himself came to officially open the tower.

It has not worked. Since the opening of the tower things have gradually
grown worse on the wired network here until this month where I am
having to deal with pings of over a second and a bandwidth graph that
looks like…well like this wwwwwwwwww.

All I want to do is edit the
http://greatbarrierislandcommunityhealthtrust.org.nz/ webpage with the
2014 Chairmans Report but I am unable to because wordpress keeps losing
the connection. I am getting nostalgic for the faster days of dial up!

I am sure you will say I should ring Vodafone, but really they don’t
care. They get the money every month and the land network is owned by
Chorus. I could ring Chorus but they don’t care because they get mioney
from Vodafone, so I am calling you.

Please fix the mess that has been made of the Great Barrier Island
telephone system. It shoud have been run in fibre but since Vodafone
got the contract we get dial up for the same amount of money.

Well, that’s my vent. I am unsure whether this will reach you as the
mail server throws password errors a lot due to the bad connection, but
if it does, appreciate your broadband speed.

Tane Harre

And received this reply from Rebecca Kearns.

Rebecca Kearns

Dear Mr Harre

On behalf of Hon Amy Adams, Minister for Communications, thank you
for your email regarding issues with the Rural Broadband Initiative
tower on Great Barrier Island.

The Minister would like to look in to your individual situation and
in order to do so will require your address, if you could please
provide this information it would be much appreciated.

Once your address has been received I will place your correspondence
with the Minister for her consideration and response.

Kind regards
Rebecca

Rebecca Kearns l Private Secretary – Communications l Office of the
Hon Amy Adams | Minister for Communications |
Rebecca.Kearns@parliament.govt.nz | Parliament Buildings, Wellington
l www.beehive.govt.nz

Shortly after providing my address I received this reply from Steven Joyce on behalf of Amy Adams.

Steven Joyce

Office of Hon Steven Joyce Minister for Economic Development Minister Responsible for Novopay Minister for Regulatory Reform Associate Minister of Finance Minister of Science and Innovation Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
CITAA1415-410
2 7 AUG 2015
Mr Tane Harre By email: tane(e-maelwryth.com
Dear Mr Harre
Thank you for your email dated 3 June 2015 to Hon Amy Adams, Minister for Communications regarding Internet on Great Barrier Island and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI). I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Minister.

I can appreciate the frustration slow and intermittent intenet would cause. The Government is committed to lifting New Zealand’s broadband performance, and the first phase of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and RBI programmes is well on its way to delivering faster speeds to 97.8 per cent of New Zealanders by 2020.

I have asked officials to look into the current broadband availability at your address of 139 Mason Road, Great Barrier Island, as well as any future plans for the area. My officials have informed me that the tower providing RBI fixed wireless broadband services will not have affected speeds experienced over fixed wired broadband connections.

Chorus has advised officials that your speeds will be affected by the distance of your location from the cabinet as it is beyond that of the recommended reach. Chorus has further advised that your Internet connection may have slowed due to further connections being added to the cabinet, since you were first connected. Other factors that that affect actual speeds experienced include equipment and software used, a building’s internal wiring, retail service provider plan, as well as how many users are accessing services at the same time. Chorus has confirmed it has no current plans to upgrade this cabinet or extend its reach.

Unfortunately, Vodafone has informed my officials that your location will not be able to receive sufficient signal strength for RBI wireless coverage via its RBI tower. However, TeamTalk is the current third infrastructure provider servicing some of Great Barrier Island. TeamTalk, have advised officials that that even though your location appears to be surrounded by bush, they may be able to offer you a wireless broadband service from its tower. If you wish to enquire further about this possibility you can contact TeamTalk on (04) 978 7321.

Private Bag 18041, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160, New Zealand. Telephone 64 4 817 6813 Facsimile 64 4 817 6513

Slow Internet - Opening of the Vodafone Tower on GBI
Opening of the Vodafone Tower on GBI

RBI Great Barrier Island

Slow Internet

I wrote this a couple of years ago after the erection of the cell tower in Okupu. Little has changed since then except for the massive overloading on the local exchange due to the increase in users. There was also an interview on RNZ about the power usage of the Internet where the interviewee was pointing out that each increase in speed (eg; 3g, 4g,…) increases the power used (by a large amount if you want to maintain the same coverage). Unfortunately for the Barrier this means that the tower power system will either have to be upgraded with each upgrade to maintain speed, or we will be back on the metaphorical equivalent of dial up in the modern age.

Anyway, this is my old post.

RBI Great Barrier Island

This is, unfortunately, another example of too little, too late…….
Since the erection of the Vodafone tower in Okupu there have been quite a few advertorials as to how the Island has benefited from the “Broadband” access provided by this tower. Yet no-one appears to have seen fit to compare the tower with any other alternative. So, using a “Fibre‐to‐the‐Premise Cost Study” prepared for Treasury in 2009, a little imagination, and a touch of Google, this is what the Barrier might have had.

Assuming half aerial deployment and half mole trenching (roughly the way the telephone network appears to be set up now) and using the top of the range price in each case we get an average $30/meter for fibre optic installation.
Taking the $3,000,000 and removing $500,000 for management costs (Rather generous I thought), we can divide that to give us 2,500,000/30=83333.3 or 83km of fibre optic cable installed. According to the Auckland Council there are 115km of road on the island. Adding the 10km of fibre that already exists between Claris and Rosalie Bay would give us 93/115 or 80% coverage of the island in fibre optic.
Taking into account that some of the island already has ADSL it appears we could easily have had 100% coverage of the island, with 80% being at speeds twenty times faster than the tower and the rest at speeds comparable to the tower. To make matters worse, it appears that for the same money paid, you would have received roughly twenty times more data on the UFB plans.
I am sure there are holes in this. I hope there are holes in this. Please, if you wish to point them out do so (with references). But, if my numbers are even mildly correct, it is too late. It would appear that the RBI has paid $3,000,000 to place Great Barrier Island on the modern equivalent of dial up.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/zanran_storage/www.med.govt.nz/ContentPages/20140794.pdf
http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/unitaryplan/Documents/Section32report/Appendices/Appendix%203.35.16.pdf

Pricing Plans