Stephen Fry 'right' about NZ internet - users

By Amelia Wade, Paul Harper

British comedian and actor Stephen Fry 's rant about New Zealand's internet wasn't over the top, say internet experts and users. Photo / Supplied
British comedian and actor Stephen Fry 's rant about New Zealand's internet wasn't over the top, say internet experts and users. Photo / Supplied

Internet experts and users are backing comments by actor Stephen Fry, who yesterday called on Kiwis to demand better broadband service.

The Brit yesterday "stirred the hornet's nest" when he vented his frustrations on Twitter about New Zealand's slow internet.

"[New Zealand has] has probably the worst broadband I've ever encountered. Turns itself off, slows to a crawl. Pathetic," wrote Fry, who is in Wellington as a cast member in Sir Peter Jackson's film The Hobbit.

He urged Kiwis to "rise up" and said a "smart guy" could make "a fortune and a fool of the complacent Telecomm [sic] and their contemptuous attitude to customers. Phew! Rant over."

The Government and telecommunications professionals say the roll-out of the ultra-fast fibre broadband network will allow New Zealand to catch the rest of the world, if not overtake it.

The head of the Telecommunications Users Association of NZ, Paul Brislen, agreed with Fry.

"He's quite right - you wouldn't put up with potholes in your roads, so you shouldn't have to put up with Third World broadband standards as well."

NZ's broadband lagged behind other developed countries because of the limitations of the copper cable network, Mr Brislen said.

Internet providers could not promise fast downloading because the connection speed varied greatly depending on where you were.

"If you have a look at all broadband plans here, you'll see the vast majority of them say nothing about speed - everybody gets as fast as your line can bare ... internet providers can't sell a speed-based connection because they don't know how far away you are from the copper connection point, so don't know how fast your internet will be."

Britain also has a copper cable connection but users can get a much faster connection via a TV signal. As well, supermarket chain Tesco offers an unlimited 250 megabytes-per-second- plan for $4.70 a month.

"In New Zealand, our data-caps are incredibly low," Mr Brislen said. "You've just got to look across the Ditch to Australia, where they're now moving to one terabyte data-caps - that's a thousand gigabytes."

But New Zealand's broadband landscape would be almost unrecognisable once the ultra-fast broadband network was rolled out, Mr Brislen said.

Schools, hospitals and businesses are first in line to be hooked up to the fibre cables, which will provide speeds of 100 megabytes a second.

Crown Fibre Holdings, which looks after the Government's $1.35 billion investment in the scheme, has already started the residential rollout of the cables in Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wanganui.

Labour's IT spokeswoman, Clare Curran, congratulated Fry for "putting the cat among the pigeons" at the same time as New Zealand's leading stakeholders were meeting at the Future Broadband conference in Auckland.

The majority of nzherald.co.nz readers agreed with Fry, however many defended internet service in New Zealand, saying the service was faster and more reliable than other countries they have visited.

Yesterday's debate started when Fry wasn't able to get "more than a crawl out of the system" as he tried to upload a video.

He had exceeded the limit for broadband data at the private home where he was staying. As a result, speeds slowed to dial-up pace.

Telecom spokeswoman Katherine Murphy said the actor was given a new plan so he could send and upload as much video and audio as he wanted and be charged extra if he went over the limit again.

But that did not calm Fry's resolve to get New Zealanders demanding more from internet providers.

"Yes, kiwi land is remote, but if Avatar can be made here and [NZ] wants to keep its rep for being the loveable, easy-going, outdoorsy yet tech savvy place it is, then pressure @telecomNZ into offering better packages...

"Come on New Zealand. You're world champions at rugby & filmmaking. Pressure the providers to stop [NZ] being a digital embarrassment," he told his four million Twitter followers.

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