The Internet and NZ

Today Stephen Fry was reported in news as lambasting NZ on poor quality internet provision. From what we can see on comments being made this morning, many seem to agree with him. Where does NZ stand on its internet and telecommunications infrastructure? Is it first world standard?
Today Stephen Fry was reported in news as lambasting NZ on poor quality internet provision. Ok he was hampered by being on an entry level plan that was throttled back. However the broader point is: does NZ does need to take this on board? From what I can see on comments being made this morning, many in NZ do seem to agree with him.

My own experience arriving from UK 18 months ago to take up residence was also a bit of a shock - internet provision that is. The available subscriptions were, compared to what I was used to, paltry in terms of speed and data-caps. Indeed the only data-cap that had any restrictive limit I was really aware when in the UK of was the one on my phone. Staying at a well known Auckland 5 Star hotel saw us being charged, I think it was $20 a day, for a really slow service. In London most cafes I used provided internet for free - no charges and a fairly reasonable service. Not lightning fast but it appeared much faster than what you can get as a paid for service today in at least the Auckland cafes I use.

It was a similar experience with mobile phones. Contracts were, I estimate, about 2 to 3 times more expensive than what I had been getting in the UK and were more restrictive in terms of e.g. available minutes.

Since I have been here I have been to presentations from likes of Crown Fibre and Telecom Users Assoc talking on internet and telecommunications provision. As a supplier of recruitment technology systems and services we keep a watchful eye on what is happening. The NZ target for 100mb rollout is 2020. That is 8 years away... To compare: In london 3 years ago we had 40Mb of effectively uncapped usage at home. The same supplier is now advertising 100Mb for around the equivalent of $70 a month (plus first 3 months are free). There is thus no way in my view that 100Mb will be regarded as a 1st world internet service in 2020. Quite simply others are moving much faster than NZ. Internet links across the pacific is also an issue. Lets face it most of the internet and the exciting stuff including the overseas customers for our businesses sits well - overseas... We need faster links there as well.

What does this mean for NZ. Well as Stephen Fry has just shown, the tourists may get an unwelcome surprise when they try to use their technology over here e.g: uploading photos and videos of their trips round NZ to friends or to accessing services they are used to. They may well also get a shock at the cost as they will expect much of this to be free. If they buy a Mobile Phone SIm and contract this will also likely prove much more expensive than they have been used to.

The effect of this; well according to The Tourism Association, the tourists account for 10% of NZ GDP and support 1 in 10 jobs. Giving them a great experience and encouraging them to tell others should be very much in the national interest. Another sector example is the NZ IT sector, which as whole is estimated to contribute $8bn to the economy. However many manufacturers and financial organisations also rely on their IT and telecommunications. If it is cheap and fast this will benefit their businesses and they will be able to make more use of services like the e.g. the Cloud and mobile computing.

Sadly it seems clear by comparison that NZ is not currently competitive in offering service availability and pricing comparable with that of other developed counties. These days a reliable and fast internet infrastructure is almost as essential as a good road or transport network to encouraging business growth. More importantly whilst NZ is lagging behind this unfortunately is unlikely to change with a goals like 100mb by 2020. Lets hope that NZ raises its ambitions in this area - the current stance may well disadvantage the country economically in the future.