Even if the rights had been up for grabs then, Spark and TVNZ would have found it difficult to pull off internet-based broadcasting of the rugby on a national scale a few years back.
High international data transit charges have come down since then, and we have the network infrastructure needed to shift large amounts of data almost everywhere.
There are some parts of the New Zealand internet where things could be better though, and Spark doesn't have much time left to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
Because nothing can go wrong when the games start, Spark and TVNZ know that all too well.
At the national network backbone level, Monday's announcement makes it clear that Spark must start peering, or going into New Zealand internet data exchanges around the country, if it hasn't done so already.
Spark refused to do that when it was Telecom, and instead asked other internet providers to buy expensive data circuits into its network. Such circuits are a hefty burden for smaller providers whereas using data exchanges is easier, cheaper and faster so Spark should peer with the rest of the NZ internet to ensure everyone gets good transmission speeds to its content.
Removing the no-peering bottleneck between networks is important because people will watch the rugby not just on Spark-delivered broadband, but on mobile devices, at work, down at the pub, and at clubs.
Likewise, the rugby should motivate Chorus (also née Telecom) to upgrade the access network that people connect to outside the cities.
Chorus has migrated older DSL gear from cities into rural exchanges, and I can't for a second imagine the network infrastructure provider would be so callous not to swap it out for the faster stuff.
My Far North village can't get free-to-air TV even without a pricey satellite service, and will be up in arms if the first generation ADSL in the local exchange isn't upgraded (luckily, we have excellent wireless broadband though).
Rural broadband is about much more than watching streaming video, as anyone who's had to drive a couple of hours to the nearest town because internet banking doesn't work can attest to. Even if you're a townie with a high-speed UFB connection (and this is where NZ collectively points finger and laughs at Australia's expensive old-tech NBN mess that will collapse under the load next year), there are a few things to think about to best enjoy the games.
Spark has yet to provide technical details on the streaming, but said it'll adapt to the device and bandwidth available to viewers. High definition streams will be available, and probably 4K too, I'm told, but there is no indication as to the minimum bitrates (how much data is consumed per second) for instance.
Streaming internet video like Netflix uses between five to 12 megabits per second of data speed for HD and better quality — that's per stream, by the way. First-generation ADSL won't deliver that speed, and even ADSL2+ could struggle. If you can't get UFB fibre connections, see if the newer VDSL is available for your copper broadband.
A connection with a small data cap, like 40 or 80 gigabytes per month, isn't going to cut it. I wouldn't be surprised if most providers, including mobile telcos, come out with really meaty and fully unlimited plans nearer towards the time — or subscribers will leave for providers that offer such plans.
Inside the house, if you're using WiFi (and most of us do) check if you need to upgrade the router. Newer WiFi routers are not only faster, but optimise video streaming and can handle people doing other things over the internet at the same time without lagging the rugby watching, and causing domestic upset in the process. I've had very good results with mesh WiFi access points from Google and Netgear, which ensure that the whole house gets close to the maximum speed of my internet connections.
In a similar manner, the network electronics on old computers, smartphones, tablets and TVs may have a difficult time keeping up with streaming video and it might pay to check them out and, if needed, to upgrade to newer technology.
None of the above things are difficult or that expensive, but get the ball in play sooner rather than later, if you want to be ready for the big game.