I appreciate Stephen Fry.
As an author, actor, and general smart-sounding-chap I think he is alright. This opinion was further solidified when yesterday he had a go at the sorry state of the Internet in New Zealand.
This is something I was planning on writing about in more detail in the future, but I couldn't miss this opportunity to have my opinion also backed by someone who is actually famous (although doesn't have any particular high ranking authority to make sweeping statements about the Internet).
So, here goes...
Yes, we have the Internet in New Zealand - but do we really?
Consider the following:
In 2010 the United States basic broadband was defined by the FCC as being minimum download speeds of 4mbps (PDF link)
How does that relate to anything?
Well, in the same time frame New Zealand was shown to have an average broadband speed of 2.9mbps - so, our average speed for broadband wasn't actually broadband at all! Fantastic!
This speed, it seems, is the main issue that Fry had. He was trying to upload some files and was faced with a hard time because his Internet was very, very slow.
It later came out that apparently this was his own fault as he had used more Internet that he was allowed and his speed had been intentionally slowed by the provider. This is all well and good, but, even receiving normal "faster" speeds the Internet in New Zealand is well behind other countries. One of the same articles essentially saying Fry should mind his own business pointed out that even with New Zealand's proposed Ultra Fast Broardband (available in 15 years) we will be less than half the speed of other countries present speeds:
"...Tesco [Britain] offers an unlimited 250 megabytes-per-second- plan for $4.70 a month"
"New Zealand's broadband landscape ... once the ultra-fast broadband network [is] rolled out ... will provide speeds of 100 megabytes a second."
But, it isn't just speed, it is a location thing - which will tie in with the problems New Zealand has in TV and movies [when I get to it, in a future post] - that because we are in New Zealand (or anywhere outside the US qualifies really) we can't even use our non-broadband broadband to experience the best the Internet has to offer (you know, TV shows and live sports).
Speaking of which - why do they block other countries from using services like Hulu, or watching things on the networks websites? If you are giving it away for free, or putting some ads in it, can't I watch along? I will sit through ads if it means I get to see a TV show when it is first being aired (rather than waiting till it comes out in NZ - see below).
OK, so maybe it is the speed thing more than anything else - I know I have always been put off playing games online due to the fact that a poor Internet connection would ruin the experience. And I am also painfully aware that I can't get the most out of my smartphone because cell data is so slow (and expensive) as well.
But it feels like it is something that should be fixable - whether it is the fault of the Government, Telecom, or a content provider/monopoly like Sky TV - something must be able to be done right?
Suddenly I have become the "Someone must be at fault and they should fix it, but I have no solutions" guy, but you know what? Everyone is always [often] that guy, so this is just my turn (and, to be fair, I will likely take many more turns at being that/this guy).
I recognise there is no quick fix, and that maybe this Ultra Fast Broardband the Government is currently working on will fix things – but based on what we are being told doesn’t it already feel like it is falling short?
Why aren’t we aiming for higher speeds with it? Considering the timeframe for implementation and the speed at which technology seems to move isn’t it creating the potential that it will be obsolete by the time it is finished? Or at least insufficient?
Maybe they have considered this and are building in redundancies and the ability to upgrade faster and cheaper in the future – but the fact that Telecom is involved makes you at least suspicious, right? Isn’t this the same company that has on multiple occasions been shown to be actively deceiving its customers and holding things back to hike up prices?
I am not sold at all.
But, I also guess this all wouldn't be so bad if not for the knowledge of what we are missing out on. So, the problem with the Internet in New Zealand is really that it lets us know about the Internet in other countries!