'Do you know why? '
'The power cord has come to grief. '
'How did that happen? '
'My router has stopped working."
"Do you know why?"
"The power cord has come to grief."
"How did that happen?"
"Well ... , my children have a pet rabbit."
"These things happen," said the helpdesk guy.
It's hard to know what possessed Lily, a colleague's lop-eared rabbit, to attack the power cord and the ethernet cable. Perhaps she took exception to the router's incessantly flashing green lights. Or, by some sort of sixth sense, had reacted to the electromagnetic radiation of the wires as a threat needing to be dealt to. Maybe she was just hungry.
We'll never know. But her attack was swift and, in its two-pronged nature, devastating. Telecom Xtra sent a replacement router with new power cord, but my colleague still had the problem of the severed ethernet cable that ran from the downstairs router to the upstairs computer room.
He baulked at the $200 quote for an upstairs phone jack extension so decided to repair the cable himself. In the best tradition of Kiwi DIY, he cut off the bite marked end, and persevered in the difficult task of slotting eight tiny wires in the right order into an ethernet clip.
It didn't work, but it was a sterling effort. Imagine his distress however, when, with a new power card and replacement ethernet cable, broadband refused to be restored to his household.
By now his daughters, in their sixth week of deprivation - no Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, MSN or downloadable music, not to mention having to go to friends' houses to do their homework - were feeling like pariahs.
Another call to the helpdesk fixed the problem - somehow his internet access had been "locked out" at Xtra's end also. Could Lily's bite have reached that far down the line?
It's not the first time I've heard of animal sabotage of the internet. A gentleman farmer I know out Mangatawhiri way had his fibre optic cable attacked by cows. He had run some conduit across a paddock to a WiMAX, (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) station he and some neighbours had built to get broadband to their rural lifestyle.
As he points out, the great thing about DIY fibre is that there's there is no risk to life and limb because there is no electricity flowing in it. Farmers are also quite used to laying out reticulation systems, so for them buying the cable and unrolling it is as easy as banging in a fencepost.
But as he found out, it's also not a bad idea to bury it.
Inexplicably, cows find fibre optic wires protected in an alkathene pipe terribly attractive and will immediately seek them out, and chew, not their cud, but the cable.
Animal antics aside, herein lies an answer to the fundamental problem in communication minister Steven Joyce's $1.5 billion plan to rewire the country for the 21st century. It's the problem of uptake. Even if we do manage to bring fibre to the kerb, getting it from there to inside our homes is the really hard and expensive part - probably accounting for a third of the $6 billion or so that it's going to cost to do this much-needed rewiring job.
The answer is DIY. Farmers all over the country, tired of waiting for the monopolist Telecom to give them the service they need, are doing if for themselves - trenching fibre to their farmhouses in collaboration with neighbours and internet providers.
What's good about this Kiwi DIY fibre movement is that it puts the power into the hands of the consumer. And, if farmers can do it, so can townies - as seen by my colleague's fine example. Imagine a whole street cabling from their homes to their kerb boundary and proclaiming so with a brightly coloured marker stick. What better way to signal: "We want fibre and we want it now."
A clever government would find a way to offer incentives for such initiative - perhaps subsidising the hook-up at the kerb and the fibre optic router in the house. The faster the uptake, the faster the government's broadband investment will begin to pay off and start delivering the benefits of improved communication to the whole country.
DIY townies with pet rabbits should consider a rabbit-proof fence.