Ever since arriving in New Zealand I’ve been developing this chip on my shoulder about the internet. When I first arrived I had been freelancing, which meant spending a lot of time out of the house working at coffee shops and libraries.
Not in New Zealand.
I quickly discovered coffee shops here don’t have free wifi, but the general internet is total crap. Not only slow, but expensive. And dysfunctional anywhere outside cities. And, oh, wait, LIMITED.
What is limited internet?
At the risk of sounding like a first-world whiner (which, let’s face it, the majority of this post is going to be just that), I had no idea what limited broadband meant until moving here.
Essentially it means you can only pay for and use a certain amount of data. Activities like checking email don’t eat much. Updating software, using Skype, watching YouTube videos, uploading photos…. those do.
In New Zealand, that data costs a lot. For $200/month living with five people we received 20GB of data each. In New York, my roommate and I paid $22 total for unlimited internet. You do the math.
Broadband Issues Bad for New Zealand’s Economy
I’m currently working for a start-up in a young industry. I meet a lot of professionals and entrepreneurs who are invested in New Zealand’s growth as part of the global economy. Over the past year I’ve been to many conferences on that very topic – a major event at the University of Auckland Business School, a digital conference run by MSN, a program hosted by Google…
Want to know what all these events had in common?
None of them had wifi.
Someone please explain how you can attend a conference for digital professionals about the growth of New Zealand’s international economy AND NOT HAVE THE FUCKING INTERNET.
But wait! It gets better…
Enter: Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry, master of all that is humorous and national treasure of England, is in New Zealand. And I was giddy with joy when my 15-month-long annoyances were justified when I saw this tweet:
The full story is, apparently, Fry was doing lots of “high-bandwidth activities” like uploading photos/videos. He went over the limit and Telecom slowed his speed to dial-up, which is what happens here if you exceed your limit.
(As someone who does this every month, I can assure you it’s quite the treat.)
What shocked me though were the tweets following Fry’s rant. New Zealanders are a defensive bunch and even if everyone here hates the limits, there was no way in hell they would allow an outsider to insult their country.
One guy tweeted that, well, “maybe internet is slow here but at least it stops people from tweeting too much” (!). Another called Fry an asshole. And, of course, many brought out The Earthquake Card, saying Kiwis who have internet “should be thankful for what they have.”
NZ publications and even the damn government is responding to this issue all wrong. They’re responding as if Fry has had an out-of-the-ordinary experience. I can assure you, he hasn’t. Fry’s issue is representative of a bigger problem in New Zealand.
Dear NZ, You’re 10 Years Behind. Again.
Fry later posted a series of tweets that have made me fall in love with him even more. He said (edited for clarity), “Comcast-style throttling is disastrous for the economy. For visitors and for everyone. It won’t stop illegal torrenting and makes as much sense as closing a lane of traffic because there’s congestion. Yes, Kiwi Land is remote, but if Avatar can be made here and they want to keep its reputation for being the loveable, easy-going, outdoorsy yet tech savvy place it is, then pressure
@telecomNZ into offering better packages. Kiwis travel. They know 20MB is routine in Europe and the UK is rolling out ultra fast fibre-optic. Come on, New Zealand, you’re world champions at rugby and film-making. Pressure the providers to stop being a digital embarrassment.”
This has nothing to do with Fry going over the data cap. Or choosing the wrong provider. There is no other provider. There are no real competitors to Telecom. It’s called a monopoly. And it’s not okay.
And, to clarify, most first world countries don’t have data caps. As per usual, New Zealand is about ten years behind. In the words of one commenter, its policies are “primitive.” One traveler even said that as much as he loved it here, the broadband limitations means he “could never work or live here permanently.”
So BRAVO, Stephen Fry. B-R-A-V-O.