Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stephen Fry thinks we are "a digital embarrassment"

Stephen Fry, the actor, comedian, author, blogger, tech guru and friend of the late Steve Jobs, is in New Zealand filming for Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie. Yesterday he was tweeting furiously about how crappy NZ's broadband speeds are and created a bit of media storm.
    "[New Zealand] has probably the worst broadband I've ever encountered. Turns itself off, slows to a crawl. Pathetic," he tweeted, followed by: "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 ..." and,  "Come on New Zealand. You're world champions at rugby & filmmaking. Pressure the providers to stop [NZ] being a digital embarrassment,"
   First some background to this story. Apparently Stephen Fry was staying in someone's house and was trying to upload some video and he reached the owner's data cap, which is why the connection crawled to stop, so the owner wouldn't get a hefty bill. No idea what the owner's monthly data cap is but I know many people who have data caps around 10 GB a month - honestly! My monthly data cap is 120 GB and I'm consider an "elite" customer, a power user. Not only our NZ's data caps ludicrously small, which was the first problem Stephen Fry encountered, but our speeds our slow as well. Here's a speed test I just did.

    I live in central Auckland and these speeds are considered good by NZ standards. Bloody incredible if you live out in the country side. Compare this to many US ISPs whose budget services start at 45Mbps and go up to 200Mbps. But then there is also the cost. Orcon, one of NZs better ISPs offers, 30GB a month for $62 (US), that's considered quite a good deal in NZ. A typical US ISP offers unlimited data for around $45 a month at much faster speeds. Tesco, a UK supermarket, offers unlimited data at 20GB for $3.96 (US) a month. What I wouldn't give for that deal! Well what I wouldn't have to give is obviously what I'm being forced to pay now.
    Okay, NZ is a small country (4 million + population) and so bigger countries where people are packed closer together have economies of scale; but I still don't see why people living in the urban centres of NZ aren't getting a much better deal in terms of speed, data caps and price. I'm afraid Stephen Fry is correct New Zealand is a digital embarrassment. 

   BTW: I highly recommend Stephen Fry's blog.


  1. Don't forget the cost of the international transport. Takes a 2000km underwater cable to connect to AUS and 10.000km to US. That alone changes everything :(

  2. Well that's certainly an additional point to consider, but the ISPs cache a lot of data to reduce the amount they are are requesting down those long pipes. But it's a good point.