While many Kiwis couldn't fathom a life without 24/7 internet access, it's reality for a few people in the North – especially in rural communities.
Some key players in the industry say Northland has come a long way as both private companies and government work to improve the regional internet connectivity.
Others emphasise that the pandemic has shown the digital divide between those who are well connected to the worldwide web and those who are not.
According to the Northland Digital Enablement Group (DEG), 95 per cent of Northlanders are connected to broadband.
However, DEG chairman Joseph Stuart says this isn't good enough.
"Covid-19 has certainly exposed the gulf between the haves and have nots when it comes to broadband users in Northland."
A recent survey by DEG and the four Northland councils – their fourth annual Internet Speed Survey – indicates more households have access to broadband but Stuart said the expectations of quality were not being met.
"We want communities to be able to work from home more easily, or to participate in video conferences should they need to, and the results of the survey show that is not always possible."
Stuart is hopeful Northland will be able to reach 100 per cent connectivity by the end of the year but emphasises that improving internet speed and quality also had to be a priority.
Meanwhile, organisations are working to improve Northland's internet connectivity in both urban and rural areas.
The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), in partnership with the Crown, works in liaison with Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees to install cell phone towers that bring wireless 4G mobile and broadband coverage into the region and the rest of New Zealand.
Rocco's Caitlin Metz said since last year they had successfully installed 25 out of 51 cell phone towers planned for Northland – some of which went online during the lockdown.
That encompasses 45,768 rural households and businesses.
"During lockdown we were able to bring 29 sites live nationwide. We had overwhelmingly positive feedback from communities. This meant so much to them."
Major challenges for the team include finding suitable sites on privately owned land, connecting the towers with power and working with a limited budget.
"Rural people know more than anybody what it's like to have no connectivity, which is why many landowners are willing to have a cell tower installed on their property."
Metz said while New Zealand did well on a global scale – especially considering difficult geographical conditions – insufficient rural broadband was an obstacle to greater success.
"If you ask people in rural communities, they are clearly disadvantaged in life because they don't have the same access to services. Broadband today is considered a basic human right, just as water, sewage or roading is."
Other programmes, such as Marae Digital Connectivity's work connecting 24 marae to the region's network, and the Te Taitokerau Northland Economic Action Plan in co-operation with Northland's councils and Northland Inc, aim to bring broadband to communities not covered by RCG's work.
After conducting a survey in early May, Far North District Council (FNDC) developed a 3.5-year action plan (Nothing But Net) to bring "world-class mobile and broadband infrastructure" to the Far North by 2023 and get every school-aged child connected at home.
"Building any kind of infrastructure here is difficult. There are many long, windy roads and there might only be a few people living at the end," said Ana Mules, FNDC team leader community development and investment.
"At the same time, people shouldn't be disadvantaged by where they live."
The Far North District also took part in DEG's Internet Speed Survey. Improving internet speed was the next step after expanding the network, Mules said.
The key to success was to work in co-operation with others as well as the community.
In the Far North, 62 per cent of the 173 respondents said they were either not satisfied or only partly satisfied with their internet service.
There is also a huge variation of speeds between providers for the same broadband service on the same data plan.
The average download speed recorded across the Far North District is 37.3Mbps, while the average upload speed is 24.9Mbps.
According to the Speedtest Global Index, in May New Zealand's average download speed was 114.75 Mbps and the upload speed was 75.37 Mbps for fixed broadband.
The survey shows fibre outperforms copper and wireless connections by a long way, however only 16 per cent of those surveyed are using fibre.
Chorus has been rolling out the ultra-fast broadband across the region and currently has Mangōnui, Taipa, Cable Bay, Langs Beach and Waipū Cove under construction.
Next on the list are Hihi, Tokerau Beach, Waipapa, the Rangitane Rd and Kurapari Rd area in Kerikeri, Paihia, Russell, Okiato, Haruru, Omapere, Rawene, Ōhaewai, Matapōuri, Pukenui and Awanui.
In both Kaipara and Whangārei, there has been a large uptake of fibre since Northpower Fibre completed the country's first ultra-fast broadband rollout in 2014.
Northpower Fibre CEO Darren Mason said they were now servicing 13 towns across both districts and Whangārei had a 64 per cent uptake in fibre, well above the national average of 58 per cent.
"We just opened up the fibre network in Kaiwaka a couple of weeks ago and completed Mangawhai after the lockdown."
One Tree Point and Marsden Point, Ruakākā, Waipū, Dargaville and Hikurangi are also being serviced, with more expansions planned for Ruawai, Maungatūroto and Papakoa.
Mason said they were well ahead with the current expansion project and the next step would be improving the network performance and filling in the fringes of the existing network to make it more resilient.
Tips for your internet connection
• Visit broadbandmap.nz to check, what kind of services are available to you.
• T o use 4G voice calls on wireless broadband, you might need to a software update. Contact you internet provider for more information.
• To check your internet speed, visit speedtest.net.
• At home, ensure your devices are located close to the router. Use a wireless range extender to cover dead spots on your house.
Essential workers without essential services
Forty gigabytes of broadband – that's all beef farmers Neil and Hazel MacMillan have a month, and that's all that they can get.
The couple live about 10km southwest of Okaihau on a rural road, and they are hooked up to a satellite.
"It's okay, but it's expensive," Neil MacMillan said. "It's what we have to live with at the moment."
The MacMillans pay $140 monthly, well above the $76-$100 most other residents in the Far North District pay.
Neil said he could do what he needs to with the internet they have available. This includes their farm accounts, internet banking and essential communication.
He also said the connection regularly dropped out in bad weather conditions.
"I wouldn't dare to try to watch a movie," he said.
When they first moved to their farm, the MacMillans tried to get their internet through copper, however, the connection was so poor they couldn't properly send emails.
Hazel said they were well adjusted to the services they have available now. The pair only felt vulnerable when they require a connection for medical appointments.
And Neil, who loves rugby, said he wouldn't mind having more monthly data available to stream more games.
Kaipara farmer John Blackwell requires an internet connection to run his business but the copper connection to his property, 23km from Dargaville, is unreliable and needs replacement, he says.
"As farmers, we are deemed essential, yet we don't have access to essential services," the Federated Farmers Northland president said.
"We are more reliant on new technology than ever and internet connection has become extremely important."
Blackwell uses a cloud-based program to monitor the movement of his stock, as required by government. Book-keeping and bill payment are also done online.
Because of his location, Blackwell isn't exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to providers, and like the MacMillans he pays $140 monthly for his internet.
He acknowledged the difficulties associated with improving and expanding the network but says if New Zealand relied on the productivity of their farmers, the Government might have to review its strategy.