Ultra-shoddy broadband: exposed cables worry residents

By Fiona Connor

Fibre-optic cables for ultra-fast broadband have been installed across fences and through gardens in some Auckland homes - leaving residents concerned.

Internet users raised the issue with the Herald after discovering the cables scattered across their driveway, garden or taped to a fence.


Broadband infrastructure provider Chorus, which is responsible for installing the cables, yesterday said the work shown to it by the Herald did not meet its standards.

Howick resident Joe Thornley said he had been left with an "infrastructure timebomb" after the cable lines to his home were left lying across his garden. He was concerned about the durability of the exposed cables.

"My biggest concern is the substandard installation and lack of accountability between Spark and Chorus for these installations," he said. "My fibre connection is now both my telephone line and internet access. It is essential infrastructure and should be treated in a similar way to water, power and previously copper telephone lines."

Mr Thornley's neighbours were also left unhappy when ultra-fast fibre broadband was set up in their homes, he said. Wiring could be seen running down the side of two neighbours' fences - held up by duct tape - while others had cables sticking out of the ground.

Calls to Chorus to bury the cables were dismissed, Mr Thornley said, and he was told the installation was within guidelines.

Mr Thornley said: "I am concerned that in six to nine months' time when these substandard installations fail I will be having to pay a substantial amount of money to the company who installed it in the first place to get it done properly."

Joe Thornley with the dodgy fiber cable that Chorus has installed and is held together by duct tape at his home in Mellons Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Joe Thornley with the dodgy fiber cable that Chorus has installed and is held together by duct tape at his home in Mellons Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell.

In Mt Wellington, one disgruntled internet user said his new broadband cables were a safety hazard.

"The cables have been installed along the fence and cross over a concrete driveway," said the man, who asked not to be named.

"All the cables are exposed to damage by lawn mowers, or bush cutters. The driveway crossing is subject to damage by heavy vehicle. They did not put any silicone or grout to cover the cables and said it is the owner's responsibility."

Chorus communications manager Nathan Beaumont said: "On behalf of Chorus I want to apologise for what has obviously been an unhappy fibre install experience.

"It's clear that on this occasion we haven't met our own standards. Running cables over gardens and using duct tape is simply not acceptable and we will be returning to rectify our mistakes as soon as possible.

"The cable mounted to the fence also fails to comply with our standards, and we will also be rectifying this install as soon as possible."

Mr Beaumont added: "We will investigate to see how we can learn from the mistake."

A spokeswoman for Spark said there had been record numbers of requests to install fibre broadband.

"Spark and other ISPs [internet service providers] rely on Chorus and other LFCs [local fibre companies] across the country to carry out the install process of fibre. The reality is, fibre is a new and complex technology, no install is the same and so the process behind getting fibre installed can be difficult, but we're working hard alongside the various LFCs to make the fibre experience as smooth as possible for customers," she said.

Communications Minister Amy Adams' office referred requests for comment to Crown Fibre Holdings, which manages the nation's broadband roll-out. A company spokesman did not respond to Herald questions.

The Government has committed to providing ultra-fast broadband to 75 per cent of New Zealanders in 33 towns and cities by 2019. As of March, 127,000 homes and businesses had been connected, out of a total of 588,000 that are eligible.

Following the NZ Herald investigation into substandard fibre-optic installation the newsdesk has been inundated with calls and emails detailing unsatisfactory work and expressing dismay at the work performed by Chorus.

"Cabling at our house runs above ground beside the back fence. When I questioned this, I was told the cabling is very strong and I should try hitting it with a spade if I doubted it." - Anthony Keesing

"When consent was sorted to install the cable on a shared driveway we were surprised by their plan to fix two fences and criss-crossing our cobblestone driveway. When asked to go underground along with the water, telephone and power connections this was immediately rejected by Chorus. We want the ultra-fast cable but it looks like it might cost us in the long run!" - Browyn, Mellons Bay

"We have a hole with exposed cabling at the top of our drive following the work and also have cables looped around a streetlight - highly unsafe." - Carl, St Heliers

"It's not just happening in Auckland, it's here in Wellington also. I complained to Chorus and they sent a team out to check our install. Wires are coming out of the ground and wires not at the standard 450 to 600mm under the ground. Poor work ethic's are widely in place." - Ken McFarlane, Porirua

"Hampton Drive in St Heliers has been a nightmare - footpaths and driveways dug up, grass berms destroyed, 5 weeks of mayhem so far and when questioned if there is a plan just vague looks. Our cable comes out of the ground and 3m of it was left hanging over our front fence - not sure what happens next. Is that it?" - Geoff Cooke, St Heliers

When advised of the influx of stories the NZ Herlad had received Chorus communications mangaer Nathan Beaumont stated "Chorus is currently doing more than 12,000 fibre installs every month throughout New Zealand and the majority of these are done to a very high standard. As much as we would like to be perfect, we sometimes get it wrong but when we do get it wrong, we will work make things right as quickly as possible."

- NZ Herald

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