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Unreliable Internet

More than a third of rural Southland residents believe their Internet service is slow or unreliable, according to a Venture Southland survey that will be released later this month.

Responses are still being collated from the district-wide survey, which asked residents about their usage and experiences of Internet services at home and work.

Preliminary results suggest that less than half (48 percent) of rural residents can make a mobile phone call in their home, and only a third of those working in agriculture can use their mobile phone at home or work.
In addition:

  • 39 percent of rural residents believe their Internet service is slow or unreliable.
  • 41 percent of rural business owners say their Internet service doesn’t meet their needs, and 24 percent say the quality of their Internet and mobile service is affecting their ability to attract staff.
  • 40 percent of rural residents would like to be able to stream video or TV but are unable to.
  • 47 percent of rural respondents report that they or their family regularly experience problems with mobile coverage, which significantly impacts on their lives.

Te Anau man Bill Jarvie lives about 10km out of town on Kakapo Road, and said the quality of his service had actually become worse in recent years.

“Up our road a few years ago we had speeds of three megabytes a second,” he said. “Over this period, we’ve dropped down to 0.3 megabytes.”

He had secured an ongoing discount from Spark only after raising the problem, but ultimately it was an issue of too many households being connected to the local broadband cabinet, which was owned and managed by Chorus, Mr Jarvie said.

“Spark says ‘It’s a Chorus infrastructure and we have no control over it. We’ll keep charging you for your broadband costs but there’s nothing we can do about the degraded service’.”

Connections continued to be added to the cabinet even though the service was not as advertised, Mr Jarvie said. The cabinet simply needed upgrading, but would happen at Chorus’s leisure.

“The electricity company doesn’t say ‘Everybody’s using their heaters during the winter so you can’t expect the same level of service’,” he said. “How many businesses can get away with charging you the same but providing a tenth of the service?”

Spark communications advisor Vicky Gray said the company was in regular communication with Chorus and sent all customer feedback to them directly regarding access to broadband infrastructure.

“However, seeing as Chorus own the fixed network and are a separate organisation to Spark they are responsible to make their own decisions on any planned improvements or upgrades being made to the fixed infrastructure around the country.” This restriction was the same for all Internet service providers, she said.

“We would encourage customers to call us directly so we can work through how we can improve their service on a case-by-case basis and so we can set the right expectations with customers about the availability of fixed line infrastructure in the area and therefore the services that are available to them.”

Chorus public relations manager Nathan Beaumont said a cabinet upgrade would restore the advertised Internet speed but could be over a year away.

“The upgraded cabinet will mean better quality broadband. For example, during peak times when lots of people are using the Internet, the broadband speeds will remain consistent, rather than dropping out.”

Many areas around Southland were earmarked for upgrades between July 2015 and June 2016, on a schedule in keeping with contracted commitment to roll out Ultra Fast Broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiative nationwide, Mr Beaumont said.

“While chorus is continually extending the reach of fixed line broadband, the reality is that that the significant additional investment costs involved in deploying new broadband infrastructure to some harder-toreach areas makes the economics very challenging.”

The full Southland Internet and Mobile Survey report will be released within the next fortnight and will be available on the Venture Southland website.

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