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National’s ICT failures.

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 pm, March 4th, 2014 - 23 comments
Categories: labour, national, same old national, Steven Joyce, telecommunications - Tags: , ,

After having the past five and bit years with National’s negative policies about anything to do with new technologies, it is really nice to see some effective red-tinged morning ideas appearing on the sky’s horizon.  Of course that they were accidentally released because of a technology screw up does make them somewhat more delicious. And no it wasn’t Clare Curran who screwed up. She just took the hit.

Of course getting caught by a slow auto-fill in a email program is a classic mistake. In this case it meant typing in the correct recipient but getting caught hitting return on the first (?)  person in the parliamentary database – Amy Adams. She happens to the opposition’s minister for doing stuff slowly and very reluctantly – currently:-

  • Minister for the Environment
  • Minister for Communications and Information Technology
  • Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

You have to remember that National has since 2008 managed to do exactly two things in the infotech area as far as I’m aware. They have been most notable for doing  both extremely badly. Slowly dragging out a rollout of fibre, and surveillance

Their takeover of the Labour policy for a fibre rollout has been a monument to how slow it was possible to make something happen. The current plan is to get to 75% of household by 2019 – 11 years after they promised to start. They over-promised what was feasible, fibre to the home (FTTH) rather than Labour’s much more feasible fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)  and then they funded it for less than Labour’s proposal. That is why it has been so damn slow. Most of the time was simply trying to get corporates to come to the party, and since then they have  managed to finish the fibre to the node (FTTN) that was already underway prior to any political proposals.

It was also a comedy of errors,  because while some of the first zones to be done were where there were high density residential housing in the central cities. However some idiot (probably Stephen Joyce) managed to forget that high density housing often consists of apartments. The agreements didn’t negotiate exactly how the fibre was going to be taken to those apartments. Consequently it is only in the last six months that there has been any take up in strata-title apartment buildings. 

This is one of the main reasons that residential take up has been so slow.

The other has been that most people really don’t need fibre speeds. Quite simply the servers of content are mostly offshore and we have some of the worlds slowest download speeds to the major suppliers. It doesn’t really matter how fast the download connection is when you can’t get data at anything more than a fraction of the speed.  We have a single expensive and rather rationed pipe the Southern Cross cable between us and the rest of the world from a monopoly supplier.

Where we have some local content providers, the speed on the local network is great. But with the exception of the Ubuntu local download servers and the old TV and movie content on Quickflix nothing much runs at speeds above offshore links. Which is why Chorus is dragging their feet over the price differential between copper and fibre lines. They know that there won’t be any significiant takeup of residential fibre for some time. People can’t get anything faster than they already are.

The 20 megabits per second of a urban download ADSL link are more than ample for everything that is currently available.

But personally I’d love to have fibre at home. We have a need for it. But I’m a computer programmer and blogger who routinely pushes about 40-50GB from my desktops to servers every month for work and ‘pleasure’. My partner is a filmmaker who can easily push 100GB offshore when the festivals are on.

But we can’t get fibre installed to our house because it is an apartment, and despite the fibre being laid outside the block nearly a year ago. So both of us are selling intellectual property exports to the world at a maximum and incredibly sluggish rate of just over 100 kilobytes per second. It takes about 3 hours to send a gigabyte of data offshore, about an hour to restore the database for this site at a server, and about 12 hours to send a copy of a documentary to a festival.

Then there is the problem caused by National’s other ICT venture in the last 5 years. They have massively increased the potential level of legal surveillance by bodies like police, SIS, customs, GCSB, and any of the GCSB’s 5 eyes partners.

After having watched these various bodies massively misusing their powers of undocumented and unsupervised surveillance over the last 6 years both with people I know and with apparently almost everyone, I now routinely run much of my traffic over encrypted streams. They re-enter the net in countries that don’t have policies that confuse democratic activism with subversion and view commercial espionage as their rationale for operations.

I’m not exactly alone. This means at present I spend a lot of time squirting data from NZ to a location somewhere in the world that isn’t the 5-eyes territory, to come back into NZ. I’m not alone. After seeing the disasters that National and other foolish governments have been making with their security policies pandering to paranoid dickheads and commercial spying and it’s impact on the net, I just do this to increase the amount of encrypted traffic they have to handle.

I guess National seems to enjoy slowing down the net. I really haven’t liked the lack of new local tech startups recently. It means that when the current crop of startups fostered prior to 2009 either grow to maturity and usually move closer to their markets or die, that the industries that support them also dies. The R&D and developmental assistance that National has slashed is one part of it. The other is the lack of suitable ICT infrastructure for all types of tech companies. It is just so damn short-sighted. But we’d be lost without National trying to support the commodity industries and their crony capitalists in the way that their fathers did..

Digging through the Labour’s ideas. They won’t be able to do all of them immediately, but at least they seem to be looking at doing something. I’ll write some more on those in a few days.

23 comments on “National’s ICT failures.”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    I’m now on VDSL. I get 40Mb down, 10Mb up, $95/month for 200gb including VOIP line.

    Fibre isn’t actually an attractive alternative to me because what I have now is well-fast enough.

    I saw a story on Slashdot within the last few months about new technology pushing 100Mb+ speeds over plain telephone copper.

    In this context, FTTH sounds like a 2003-2004 solution, with new ADSL technologies catching up in capability. FTTC as the standard practice would have been much more sane.

    • Paul Campbell 1.1

      VDSL is iffy, depends a lot on how close you are to the cabinet – I get ~22 down, lots of errors, and it stops when it rains

      (puts on hardware designer’s hat) 100Mb/s over copper will be equally, if not more iffy and will run more risk on radiating into the RF spectrum – it probably wont work to my house 3 blocks from the cabinet

      Do you really think that Chorus will spend money speed up copper if they have fibre installed (that makes no sense) – if we had 2 competing suppliers (Chorus with copper and someone else with fibre) we might see that now we’re stuck – Chorus chose it’s monopoly position, it needs to suck it up and also accept the regulation of its prices that must come with being a monopoly

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        ???

        Not sure what your final paragraph is about. My point is if we had fibre to the cabinet, Chorus wouldn’t have a FTTH network. So they would of course invest in whatever was the cheapest and most effective technology for the last mile, which could be new flavours of DSL, or it could be fibre, or it could be cable, or some new form of wireless, or combinations of all of them depending on the locality. But now that they’re going to have a FTTH, they’re stuck with it, even if it isn’t the optimal technology in a lot of places – as Lynn has already made clear with the apartment situation.

        • Paul Campbell 1.1.1.1

          I’m pretty sure Chorus already has fibre to the cabinets – just not to the block – that’s the ATM loop that your DSL backends on to

          The apartment issue is simply that no one’s figured out who’s responsibility it is to plumb the fibre into the apartments from the street (Chorus? the landlord? the tenants?) it’s a similar sort of issue if you’re going to plumb Sky from a single dish (someone has to pay to build a splitter/amplifier tree to feed all the apartments – fortunately cheaper in NZ because orbital slots are not at a premium)

          Wireless is OK in some places – Christchurch maybe – but not here in Dunedin with its crinkly topography

          Oh – my final paragraph is about National (despite their claims to free markets) giving their mates a monopoly contract that’s not in our interest rather than setting up something that might leave us with cheaper connections

          • lprent 1.1.1.1.1

            The apartment issue is simply that no one’s figured out who’s responsibility it is to plumb the fibre into the apartments from the street (Chorus? the landlord? the tenants?)

            Exactly. But think what a FTTH actually means in the context of apartments. And you haven’t seen the other obvious legal issues with apartments?

            The distribution box that is owned and run by chorus is typically stashed in the bowels of the apartment block. Thats where they’d have to pull the fibre from the street to. Probably a single fibre to some kind of junction from what I’ve heard. Then like the copper you have to take a single fibre strand from there, distribute around the cable trays and up into the apartments. Chorus have now taken about 3 months to start talking about doing the first bit – after innumerable meetings.

            Apartments are typically owned on a strata title where the body corporate controls all of the communal areas. The apartment owners – typically in a average mix of ~25-30% owner-occupier and the rest rentals – have little or no permission to install anything in communal areas. It is also a owner democracy. Purchases have to agreed with at least half of the owners agreeing.

            In my apartment block of 60 apartments this means about 45 owners. Two thirds of whom will turn up. The ideal would be to fibre ALL apartments at the same time. But bearing in mind that most of the land lords would see no point of return to them, it isn’t going to happen.

            So now it becomes up to each owner and their ISP. Some of whom will want to get a fibre interface, others who’d probably prefer to just use existing copper to the fibre, and others who’d probably want to something weird like install CAT6.

            It all HAS to be done on the interior of the building and through the cramped cableways for a three story building….

            Complete confusion reigns, especially for those on our third floor.

            I hate to think what happens in a 12 story apartment block. One guy I know just pushed it all through his body corporate and has it installed. It took 10 months. He got it installed and running. Then someone contracted by Chorus accidentally pulled the whole building off line at the exchange.

            Now he has just dumped Orcon and moved to a ISP who doesn’t have a 3 day callback policy from the Philippines for a dealing with an outage. He hung on the phone for an hour to get through to Orcon sales to tell them where to stick their contract because they hadn’t held up their side. Then he rang a telco contractor and had it fixed in 20 minutes.

            BTW: Orcon’s support completely sucks these days. I’m dumping them as well as soon as I move to fibre, VDSL, or whatever. Couple of thousand dollars per year of business that I’ve had for them for the last 8 (?) years. Stupidest thing that I have ever seen was them cutting their NZ support operation – it was pretty adequete. That was why I moved to them in the first place.

            When I have to waste time getting stuff fixed, the last thing I need is a techno illiterate with a bad script. What I want them to do is to test my link and router from their side now (because I have already checked everything on my side to errors at the router) rather than on the 3rd call.

            • Lanthanide 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I dumped Orcon and moved to Snap. I signed up with Orcon ’cause they gave me a really good deal with 2 months of a 12 month contract free (in total it was a $260 discount). But they royally fucked up the initial provisioning and install, I got absolutely no where with their customer support phone numbers – promised to fix the problems but never did. Tech support was surprisingly helpful, though. In the end I complained on their Facebook page and the guy there magically fixed everything in a few minutes.

              Also when I tried to leave them I had to ring up about 8 times. It appears saying “I want to cancel and I realise I have 1 month left of contract” doesn’t actually mean you have cancelled, it just means you have the intent to cancel. So I had to call back to confirm dates, and ended up having to push it back by a week because Snap never bothered to tell me that I had to be at home when the Chorus person installed the VDSL connection (my previously dealings with Chorus I never saw the technicians, they did everything at the exchange). Then finally, because Orcon have an antiquated billing system and the delay with Snap pushed the final date of service to the 23rd of the month, they billed me for an entire month in advance of which I would be using exactly 0 days service, then sent me a letter saying I was in arrears and they’d send debt collectors after me because I hadn’t paid it. The next month they reversed the charges.

              • David H

                Hmmm Maybe i’ll just stick with Slingshot ADSL. My speed ranges from 6Megabits to 15 on a good day but it don’t matter the fastest I have ever seen a d/load go here is 1.2M I have a package of 200gig with data rollover so I have about 700 gig’s to burn a home ph and 2 cell phones so is not a bad package for what I pay. But then again the biggest files I grab are about 9 gig’s. And after hearing the horror stories of Orcon. And after Telstra clear I swore NEVER again will I go with a company with a helpdesk in the Phillipines.

              • Paul Campbell

                I too dumped orcon and moved to Snap about a year ago too – largely because when asked they said “we’re doing fibre, not VDSL” and as I said we’re not getting fibre any time soon – Chorus seem to be spending their money in Auckland where the returns are larger (yes all those apartment buildings).

                Here in Dunedin we were screwed by the “unbundling” while Orcon et al spent their money installing their gear in high profit exchanges in Auckland Telecom/Chorus rushed out installing dslams in boxes in the neighbourhoods where they knew there was no room for 3rd party gear

    • Paul Campbell 1.2

      (I should add VDSL is generally better than ADSL, even mine is, even though its performance is ‘lumpy’ – just not as good for every one as you see)

    • Chris 1.3

      I see your point – VDSL works for you, but you’re very wrong about the capabilities of copper vs. fibre. For all this govt’s retardedness, doing FTTH, at least as a concept, is a great idea that will provide us with good infrastructure free of contention and latency problems for years.

      FTTH is the most desirable option and we should absolutely be supporting the national rollout, even if it should probably have been better managed. FTTC is a half-assed hack, leave that shit to Tony Abbot.

      • lprent 1.3.1

        Problem with FTTH the way Steve Joyce, Amy Adams, etc rolled it out is that it amounts to a subsidy for people living in villas in leafy suburbs and businesses – because that is who the policy is designed for.

        Occasionally by accident it manages to offer the opportunity for those who could use it productively, but unless you live in a villa like so few working programmers do in auckland (they live in apartments) it will cost a lot of time, money and effort to install. Creative businesses it helps. But it wasn’t sold as a subsidy to a small group of businesses.

        So far about the only useful economic benefit has been the supply to schools. The problem is that they aren’t funded for the cost of using the bandwidth. So take up of its use is low and (you guessed it) largely confined to schools of the affluent whom can afford large school fees.

        Basically FTTC would have been a whole lot more equitable. Then those who needed it could have simply brought a link without all of the silly pissing around that we aporn and gaming etting from chorus, and we wouldn’t collectively subsidizing the porn habits of the affluent villa owners.

        This incidentally is why as a programmer who spent much of my career working from home on servers offshore that I thought that the FTTH was stupidity made up by politicians less concerned by its economic benefit and more about supporting the use of online porn by their constituents.

        Nothing about about its implementation has caused me to change that opinion. I think it sucks as a idea.

  2. Paul Campbell 2

    I work at home, consult for US companies – I blew 4 hours yesterday sitting on my thumbs pulling a software tree from my client – I have (crappy, unreliable) VDSL I’d love fibre, they’ve installed it all around my neighbourhood but not into it – the install date changes periodically, started at 2015, now it’s some time after 2016. A friend elsewhere in Dunedin is a core firefox developer, according to Chorus I don’t think he’s going to see it, at least not according to their maps, he’s in a poorer part of town (Mongrel Mob territory) apparently only the rich are getting fibre

    Have you tried calling Chorus – they closed their Dunedin office when they laid off all their technicians and rehired them as “independent contractors” so I can’y knock on their door, call their 800 number and ask to talk to whoever’s in charge of deciding when fibre will be installed in Dunedin and you get the worst runaround – it’s so transparent it’s silly, even the person answering the phone couldn’t keep a straight face.

    Remember now that Chorus is a monopoly we’re not the customers, we’re what they are selling

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    @lanthanide

    ftth is the optimum solution. The problem is that it should be 1gbps both ways rather than the 100/30 top speed that were getting.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      The most expensive part is laying the fibre. Once it’s in, increasing the speed is an easier problem that can gradually happen over time as HW prices come down.

      So yes, fibre is likely to be more future proof than copper wires can be, but at the moment there isn’t a great use-case for fibre – all we’re told is that it will let us view television over broadband instead of through the air, but that’s not actually providing us anything new. So in the short-medium term, FTTC + investing in other last-mile technology seems like a better use of money.

      Similarly, instead of getting FTTH in the 30 biggest towns/cities in the country, focussing on FTTC in those 30 towns/cities, and then increasing rural broadband rollout, would benefit the country much more.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        So yes, fibre is likely to be more future proof than copper wires can be, but at the moment there isn’t a great use-case for fibre – all we’re told is that it will let us view television over broadband instead of through the air, but that’s not actually providing us anything new.

        Considering my hobby of CGI I tend to think more in terms of the possibility of collaboration. You see more and more of this happening around the world. Musicians and others getting together across the net to produce music, video and other forms of work that requires many people. The type of collaboration that can only be done with a reliable high-speed internet connection.

        Similarly, instead of getting FTTH in the 30 biggest towns/cities in the country, focussing on FTTC in those 30 towns/cities, and then increasing rural broadband rollout, would benefit the country much more.

        We could actually do both but that would require employing a few thousand more people which would drive wages up against John Key’s and National’s desire to lower wages. As I’ve said for a while now, we have the resources, we just don’t seem to have the political will to actually use them.

        • Sacha 3.1.1.1

          Totally. Killer app for many people/businesses may be high-definition videoconferencing. Spending another few billion on proper fibre would make way more sense than on highways. Elect smarter governments, people.

  4. Keiv 4

    1Gb upload on VDSL would be around 17 mins.

    Personally switched to VDSL 18 months ago and it’s been rock solid, 40 down, 10 up.

    I tend to download & then re-upload work material from home to works local ftp site, as work offices currently only get adsl2+ (20/1).

  5. NZ Jester 5

    That’s the problem with the current fiber roll out in New Zealand. Until we get some competition in the link in/out of New Zealand, all we really have is just a fast intranet and not fast internet.
    I have downloaded files from overseas that should have only taken a quarter of the time they actually did with the speed of my ADSL. If I upgraded to fiber once available to me, only local New Zealand content will be faster and all the international stuff will still be exactly the same speed. I doubt the time it took me to download the ISO images of a few of the Linux distributions at home to play around with while I was on a Hardware and Operating systems course last year would have been any faster.
    I also found it very frustrating trying to download the large ISO images due to a few times getting time outs on a few of the downloads that made me have to restart those downloads all over again.
    I ended up just downloading and trying out only 3 of the various Linux distributions instead of all the ones I wanted to compare.
    I had to use my home internet sparingly also for the rest of the month when I was getting the ISO image of the Fedora Linux install DVD at 3.57GB in size. I used up a lot of wasted Gigabytes from my monthly data cap as it twice stalled out and canceled after getting just over 3GB in the downloads. So just getting that one DVD used up about half my monthly data allowance of 20GB.
    Something that should have only taken me a week to do to compare the Linux distributions ended up taking me a couple of months due to download problems/speeds and my internet cap.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      There are usually local mirrors for most genuine linux ISOs (as opposed to things people sometimes euphemistically called linux ISOs).
      Use bittorrent when downloading anything big, if possible. It’s likely to be much faster, and you won’t have the problem of having to throw everything away and starting from scratch if it ‘fails at the last minute’.

  6. RedBaronCV 6

    And at a totally non tech pededestrian people level, everytime I hear the well paid in govt waxing on about iGovt I think, – great for all those people who can barely afford a few minutes of prepaid cellphone – they are totally locked out . If govt want to use it then they need to have people hooked up to it.

    • lprent 6.1

      That was why the hints at minimal allocation of bandwidth were interesting. It’d be reasonably cheap to provide a targeted allocation. It’d probably be pretty good for providing opportunities as well.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      If it becomes a right to have access to the internet then there’s no problem with affordability – it will be supplied.

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