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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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We don't need no stinken UFB!

15 February 2017

Tokoroa was one of the first two locations in New Zealand to get UFB.

Now you'd think that'd mean that everyone would have tossed their copper and be enjoying the joys of unlimited "full speed" internet connectivity and racing headlong into the wonderful online world of the 21st century.

Surprisingly... not so much.

I did strongly urge the local council to use our "first connected" status and low cost of living to promote the town as a perfect "teleworking satellite village" to many Auckland businesses. Imagine the benefits to all concerned...

People could shift to Tokoroa and buy a house for little more than $100K or pay rent of $200/week, while being just 45 minutes from Rotorua or Taupo and about an hour from the beaches at Tauranga. Given the commute times across Auckland, that means giving up nothing in the way of convenience or benefits but slashing your cost of living enormously.

Sadly, the local council (whose special projects manager told me "I don't use the internet" and whose CEO advised me that "social media isn't important" were still stuck in the 1960s.

When the suggestion that the town should pitch itself as a teleworking satellite community to the nation the Mayor at the time (well past his best-by date) assertively informed me that "we've already looked at attracting 'call centres' to the town".

Yeah, there are some things you can't push uphill and around here that includes good ideas and anything that involves change. Old people (such as those on council) obviously prefer the comfort of consistency and invariance to the opportunities created by change and innovation.

Did I mention that Tokoroa was once almost a city and now has barely half the number of people needed to qualify for such status? Opting for the status-quo has a price.

Anyway, I digress... back to the thrust of today's column.

So here we are, surrounded by hundreds (maybe thousands) of Km of lit-fibre that can connect anyone to the wonderful world of the interwebs at light-speed for just $100 a month or so.

So, as I've mentioned before, why is there such a huge push to sign people up for 4G wireless broadband round here?

Both Skinny (ie: Spark, nee Telecom) and Vodafone are flogging the crap out of their 4G wireless broadband options -- why?

Hell, the RF spectrum is a scarce enough resource as it is -- without clogging it up with needless cat videos and Justin Bieber tunes.

Surely, for fixed-point operations (which is what the Skinny/Vodafone 4G products are), fibre is a far better solution. Unlike wireless, there is no limit to the bandwidth you can get from a fibre solution -- just lay more fiber when the existing pipes get full.

Once the 4G network starts reaching saturation -- well you're buggered!

What's more, I've already noticed that the Skinny 4G service has taken quite a nose-dive in performance since I started using it at the workshop. Used to be that I'd get 40Mbps down and 24mbps up but now I'm lucky to get a third of that. All I can attribute this to is the success of their sales campaign and an increased level of contention for the available bandwidth.

A curse on your house 4G broadband suppliers!

The only reason I have 4G at the workshop is because I can't get fibre or affordable DSL there. Why on earth are we selling 4G broadband connections to people who have fibre running right past their door, with fully subsidised installation and knock-down prices on offer?

What's going to happen when the 4G network really starts to groan under the strain? How will mobile customers react when their attempts to show cute cat videos to a friend while "out and about" fail with excessive buffering?

Even worse... what's going to happen when all those folk who've been duped into buying fixed-point 4G broadband instead of fibre suddenly find that the service is withdrawn?

Odds are that the fully-subsidised installation period will have passed and they'll be hit with a very hefty bill to have their house connected to fibre at that stage.

I really don't think that the 4G companies are being straight-up with this product, nor do I think they're doing much forward planning. But I could be wrong.

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