Rural hero
21 October 2014

Rural broadband + iPad = disaster

Daughter's visit blows the data cap.

This recently came by our newsfeed. It’s a study on broadband affordability: “Injustice is being done to rural New Zealanders as broadband remains unaffordable for many, despite government initiatives, according to telecommunication researcher Jonathan Brewer.”

Tell me about it. The tech world assumes we all have access to unlimited data, fast data. But 20 minutes east of Masterton, we don’t. You’d think we were in the middle of IT nowhere land. Well, yes. Despite my wife easily driving to work in half the time it took when we lived in Wellington, we kinda are in Erewhon.

And the much vaunted rural broadband initiative isn’t going to make a difference.

We’re delighted to see Mr Brewer’s report, but not optimistic our red dot on his map will turn green anytime soon.

Affordability gremlins crash landed on us with a jolt this week. My daughter popped over from Australia. On day two, I checked my emails, and there were two from our ISP saying we’d used 80 percent and 100 percent of our data for the month. It’s 15 October so we are halfway through the month. We NEVER use 100 percent.

Daughter had been using her iPad on our Wi-Fi, so I asked if there was an update going on. Yes. “Hate to tell you this but you’ve just blown our data cap for the month.” She shut it down. We don’t update our iPads or my smartphone unless we’re somewhere with free wifi

I checked our usage. Every picture tells a story.

It’s easy to see from days 1 to 14 why 6GB is enough for us. No YouTube. No Skype. Minimal photo downloads and we get by just fine. Also easy to see when my daughter arrived.

The affordability? We pay $115 a month for satellite broadband. Affordable? Yeah right. I’m retired from Consumer, so $115 represents a quarter of what the Hon. Bill English grants me per month. Fortunately, we’ve spent the last nine years getting down our living costs and we get by.

Better still, our ISP, Wireless Nation runs a Data Tank. Any of the monthly 6GB we don’t use goes in the tank for later use.

Phew – saved by the tank. There was 3GB left in the tank and we’ll easily get to the end of the month without extra cost. Cheers Wireless Nation! (If you are thinking about getting satellite broadband – choose Wireless Nation over Farmside.)

And, big ups to Jonathan Brewer for showing despite the millions the government has paid to deliver rural broadband, it’s an expensive mirage.

About the author:

Hamish Wilson is our newest life member. Before, he worked for Consumer forever. Well, at least longer than most of our staff can remember!

Long ago, he joined the test team to work on ancient devices like computers with floppy disc drives, video recorders and pre-digital cameras. More recently, he’s got lost testing car GPS devices, found his way using smart phone apps, and, like many of us, been baffled by set-top box and TV remote controls.

Now semi-retired, he writes occasional blogs when it’s too wet to be fixing fences or chopping wood on his lifestyle block.

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