Internet black hole irks family

'I'm pretty sure we shifted back to last century'

Last updated 08:28 04/12/2013

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A Palmerston North family who bought a house five minutes from the city boundary only to discover they were in a broadband deadspot may have to wait until 2020 to get the internet connection they need.

Lynda Mackenzie, her partner Daniel Huyen and daughter Chanel Mackenzie moved into the County Heights Drive property last week, six weeks after buying without a second thought about a broadband connection.

They were close enough to the city to be fine, they figured.

Not so.

Most of County Heights Drive, in the foothills of the Tararua Range off the Pahiatua Track, is a deadspot on Vodafone's Rural Broadband Initiative and despite Chorus having a broadband exchange for the street, it does not cater for every house.

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The family is now fourth on the waiting list in the neighbourhood to get a port, and Chorus says they have to wait their turn, with no current plans to upgrade the exchange until 2020.

They have managed to get an intermittent connection with Thin Air Broadband, but say they have to hold their computers in the direction of a solitary tower in the distance to get a connection barely quicker than dial-up speed.

"I'm pretty sure we shifted back to last century," Ms Mackenzie said.

"We are literally five minutes drive from the city boundary but we're not even on the map.

"If anyone decides to build beside us and block our line of sight on the tower we won't have anything, we'll be back to square one again.

"It's just ludicrous."

Ms Mackenzie works from home as a proof-reader for Chinese companies and Chanel will be studying at UCOL next year.

Both believe it will be a struggle to get things done if they cannot get proper internet in the house.

"But I don't think we would be alone in that," Ms Mackenzie said. "I don't think anyone should be expected to survive without internet these days."

Ms Mackenzie said the amount of people moving out of the lifestyle-block area was low, and those who did move out had been known to hand on their port to the next person as part of the deal.

It meant being fourth on the waiting list could effectively be a life-time sentence.

"The box is here, the exchange is here, all Chorus have to do is upgrade it but they say they won't until 2020."

Chorus spokeswoman Elissa Downey said the family's plight was unfortunate, but it made no economic sense to upgrade an exchange just to meet their needs.

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The company always took into consideration the feedback it received and if there were more complaints from people in the area, the 2020 date was not necessarily set in stone, she said.

"The entire country is going through a once-in-a-generation broadband upgrade at the moment and for us it's about weighing up each significant cost with the actual benefits.

"The more demand there is, the more we will note that there needs to be an investment in an upgrade," she said.

Real Estate Institute Manawatu spokesman Andy Stewart said that it was up to home buyers to make inquiries about whether their house could get broadband before they purchased it.

If real estate agents were asked by prospective buyers, they had a duty to research the coverage maps for them, he said.

Most would not do so as a matter of course because it was so rare to be without access to broadband in 2013, Mr Stewart said.

- © Fairfax NZ News


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