More on rural broadband

I blogged on Monday an e-mail from a friend frustrated with her experience trying to get decent in Tamahere.

On the issue of speeds available, a staffer at has said:

If you look at her article, she states on a number of occasions she “should be getting at least 5Mbps”, including referring to the website.

however, our understanding is that her property is unfortunately in a ‘dead spot’ on the Chorus broadband network – it is right at the end of a road, which makes it a long distance from the exchange, and according to the Chorus maps there is no guarantee of ANY broadband coverage, let alone at 5+ Mbps.  She also refers to broadband infrastructure improvements with the RBI scheme … but again she is unfortunately just OUTSIDE the scope of these improvements.   

 

We are doing some more internal checking on this customer’s situation, but from the information we have to date it appears that she is one of those unfortunate customers who is outside the current UFB and RBI schemes, and is located at the very outer limits of the old copper broadband network.  As you know, none of these (UFB, RBI, and Chorus footprint) are within Spark’s control and we (as with any other service provider) can only provide services based on the infrastructure available.   There are a lot of consumers out there in this situation, which is one of the reasons why the Government is pushing ahead with UFB 2.0 and RBI 2.0.

Interestingly Chorus has said they think she should be within the RBI scheme, but that the build there may not be completed by Vodafone until mid 2016.  This has I think been one of the frustrations – the difficulty in finding out what the situation is.

Also Jason Paris, Spark Home, Mobile and Business CEO commented on the original thread:

Thanks for sharing this David. It is a well written story, but I definitely didn’t find it amusing as it is not the experience we want any of our customers to have. I have asked my team to look further into what happened and I will make sure we sort things out for this customer – I would like to apologise for what has obviously been a very frustrating week.

While I don’t know all the details of what happened in this case, I acknowledge the hold times in our call centre queues at the moment are not acceptable, and there are cases where we are not calling customers back in the timeframes they (rightfully) expect. The reason for this is a huge increase in the number and complexity of calls to our customer service teams over the past month – driven by huge demand for and subsequent complexity in delivery of Fibre. The Fibre install process is an industry problem that needs to be addressed with urgency as it not only overloads our fibre team but customers flow across all channels looking for answers – overloading these too. To give you an idea, in a normal month our agents work a total of 11,000 hours per week. In the month of August they did 15,000 hours per week.

These aren’t excuses – just some rationale as to why customer service is my number one priority. We have employed another 90 agents recently, and are recruiting for 100 more. We are putting the microscope on our processes, so when a customer calls us we can solve the problem in that first call wherever possible – so they don’t have to worry about a call-back. We’re also making sure it’s easy for customers to do things online to save them having to call us. It will take us time to sort everything – but the customer service team are doing an incredible job under huge load and we are acting as fast as we can to help give them even more support.

When it comes to broadband speeds, if you are on the copper network one of the most important things influencing your speed is how far your house is from the exchange – it is possible this is the problem for your friend. As Spark does not own the fixed line network, this is unfortunately not something we control, but we can look into and explain the problem to our customers – and this is where we definitely should have done better in the story above.

I understand from Chorus the house is around 5 kms from the nearest exchange, which does mean ADSL speeds will be crap. This is one of the real limitations of copper broadband – the speeds drop massively as you get distance from an exchange or cabinet. That is why the Government has subsidised fibre rollout to 80% of NZ. For those outside the 80%, the rural broadband initiative should help get semi decent speeds, but it is not fully rolled out yet.

A smaller broadband provider has also been in touch, so we’ll see if the situation improves.

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