Fry broadband rant a 'misunderstanding'

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 14:04 20/02/2012
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IN TOWN: Actor Stephen Fry, who is in Wellington for filming his part of The Hobbit.

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Telecom says a complaint by Stephen Fry about poor New Zealand broadband speeds arose from a ''misunderstanding'' rather than any actual deficiency in the country internet infrastructure.

Fry tweeted this morning about how bad he found internet access while in Wellington for filming of The Hobbit saying: "Rise up, Kiwis and demand better? You wouldn't allow crap roads with pot holes and single file."

Then: "I know, it's feeble to moan. I'm on set now. It's 6:15 and the wifi here is good. But I have so many videos and sound files to upload."

Spokeswoman Katherine Murphy said Fry was working from someone else's residence in Wellington and unknowingly exceeded the broadband data cap for the entry-level plan the home owners were on. As a result, the broadband connection was throttled back to a lower speed.

Murphy said Fry was trying to upload and download ''pretty significant amounts of data''. The plan had now been upgraded to ''something more suitable''.

Fry confirmed the slow speeds he experienced were as a result of ''throttling'' but tweeted that New Zealanders were hard done by with the meagre data caps and they were ''a disaster'' for the economy''.

In a series of tweets he called New Zealand a "digital embarrassment" and said Comcast style throttling was "disastrous, for visitors for everyone".

"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."

"I think Comcast style throttling is a for the economy it's disastrous, for visitors for everyone."

Telecom spokesman Mark Watts said earlier today that broadband in this country had improved "immeasurably" in recent years, as a result of investments made by Telecom.

"That doesn't mean from time to time ... you aren't going to get hassles for whatever reason with respect to an individual's broadband experience," Watts said.

When customers - whether a celebrity or "you and me" - were unhappy with their service, Telecom tried to work with them to put it right.

Several overseas speakers at the Webstock technology conference held in Wellington last week also mentioned the slow and variable broadband speeds.

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Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) chief executive Paul Brislen said the problem in this country was slow broadband upload speed.

The ultrafast broadband (UFB) programme now being unrolled around the country would dramatically improve the service.

The problem until then was the technology mostly available in this country, which ran over copper lines.

 It was designed for consumption of data, which meant consumers were fine most of the time when they were downloading.

"But when you want to upload a movie, send it out to the world, that's when you run into trouble," Brislen said.

It appeared Fry had been trying to upload a video. "He would have been crawling."

The technology responsible for the slow upload speed in this country was used overseas, but the problem was exacerbated here because so far there had been few alternatives to copper.

In many countries cable television companies were offering broadband over cable, and fibre optic networks were also available, Brislen said.

Fibre - being laid out under the UFB project - was the answer.

He expected it would be three to four years before residential areas became a major focus for UFB, but it had already become available for some users in Whangarei.

Fry's comments brought home the need to act swiftly to avoid New Zealand being left behind, Brislen said.

- Stuff

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