Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
I bet today's column carries a headline you never expected to see here right?
Well it's true that Telecom cops a lot of flack in this column, but I'm
always happy to hand out bouquets where they're deserved and I think a few
words of praise are in order for the rural team who seem to be focused
on improving the lot of those (like me) who live out in the boonies.
Just a note: Xtra (Telecom's ISP operation) often go to great lengths to
tell us that they are not Telecom. In this case I should point out that
my bouquet goes to Telecom, not Xtra. I remain unimpressed by Xtra's
ability to resolve problems -- hey guys, I"m still waiting on an outstanding
helpdesk issue (4174274) that is now almost two months old and remains unresolved.
After reading last week's column, Telecom dispatched a team of troubleshooters
to take a look at my line. It seems that someone who's less than 3Kms from
the cabinet shouldn't be having the problems I have.
After spending more than a day checking, poking and prodding my lines,
a number of faults were uncovered by these hard working chaps.
The line was unbalanced, had a DC bias across it, and the card in the
cabinet needed changing.
Today I have a line that, while not perfect, is significantly improved
on last week.
(However, don't get me started on the irritating characteristics of Telecom's
IPNet system that we rural users are forced to use!)
Now, before all those other rural users who emailed me last week rush out
and call faults to say "me too please" be aware that I doubt that Telecom
can afford to do this for everyone with the same problems.
Estimates put the number of farmers using the Net at over 40,000 so if
even 10% of those were to tie up two and a half man-days of effort to
try and sort out their lines then the cost would be astronomical.
Perhaps my own case is a good indicator of just how impractical it really is
to provide urban-quality internet to the rural community using copper.
Sure, Telecom could invest tens or hundreds of millions of dollars going over
each rural line with a fine toothed comb -- but, as in my case, that would
only improve things, not make them perfect.
There's still the audible "tick, tick, tick" of an electric fence impinging
on the signal that travels down my line -- and no amount of tweaking on
Telecom's part will eliminate that.
While there are some areas (like around here) where a wireless solution would
be almost perfect -- this involves capital expenditure, something that
tax laws tend to penalise when compared to "maintenance" expenditure.
So how do we improve the plight of the rural Net user?
Well many years ago I spent a fair amount of my time installing and setting
up privately owned TV translators.
Small rural communities often found themselves without any kind of decent
TV reception and in such cases they would often group together to come up
with a few thousand dollars. This money would buy them a small (1W-10W)
translator that would be sited on a suitable hill where it would broadcast
a signal to all of those affected.
This strategy worked very well. The community ended up with excellent
reception, the TV broadcasters increased their reach and everyone was
Right now I'm wondering why Telecom doesn't do the same.
Given the ready availability of off-the-shelf wireless hardware and
software, why not offer a "rural community package" which would allow
people to hook a wireless node up to the nearest bit of fibre. If that
cabinet is not in line-of-site of the intended users, other nodes
can be sited elsewhere to create a wireless network as small or as
large as necessary.
This network could be configured to carry broadband, voice over IP and
other services if required.
Rural users could ditch that expensive copper, Telecom could dispense with
the burden of rural line maintenance and everyone would get a better
service (including broadband Internet).
This is very similar to the strategy being adopted by Rural Networks and
reported in the
NZ Herald a few months back. What surprises me is that Telecom
isn't out there competing in this marketspace rather than simply resting
on its laurels.
As I have suggested, wireless services such as this could soon become
so surely it's something they can't simply ignore.
Of course, to stop the WarChalkers from marking hillsides with characters
burnt using Roundup on the grass, good security would be essential ;-)
However, there may be another option. I've had an idea (yes, another!)
which might just ease the plight of rural Net users battling the evil electric
fence noise. I'll provide more information at a later date -- but if
this is your problem, stay tuned.
Wake Up Pat!
Just in case anyone was watching TV1's Breakfast show this morning and wanted
more information on the "Kick-ass Ninja PC" project presented by Pat Pilcher
you should be aware that poor old Pat doesn't seem to know the URL of the
website he helped organise :-(
No Pat, it's not www.pc.dse.co.nz,
it's pc.dse.co.nz. Maybe
they'll update the DNS to catch all those frustrated TV viewers who blindly
followed the onscreen instructions -- maybe not.
Have your say.
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