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A Positive Negative September 14, 2007

Posted by davidit in School Zone, Telecom, Uncategorized.

I am suffering from a positive negative here on the supertanker.  I like the fact that that such a situation has arisen and have celebrated the fact with the crew.  The ‘but’ is that I am now left with an enormous headache!  The graph below is our Internet usage, per week from 14 June to 7 September 2007 and the volume is in MB.  As you can see it is climbing somewhat!  The dip is the school holidays.


The issue is that since the start of our digital classroom project we have had a massive upsurge in Internet traffic.  This is fantastic and is a pointer to the future where, I believe, we will do everything online, reducing our computers to mere terminals by using online programmes and storage.

My problems on the supertanker are more pressing and I do not have to gaze into my crystal ball to realise what is coming.  We have a further 18 members of the crew who have expressed and interest in working in a digitally enhanced room in 2008.  We already have four and from these classrooms it is fair to say that the vast majority of the Internet traffic is emanating.  There has inevitably been a spill out effect into other classes, but the upswing in traffic has to be directly attributable to the change in emphasis in the new classes.  If this is the case and we have seen our weekly Internet traffic increase from 1.25GB to last weeks whopping 8.6GB then I have a headache of 3 nurofen proportions!

If for argument’s sake we are currently using 4GB per week on average with four classrooms, then it is reasonable to assume that each class is using approximately 1GB of data per week, extrapolate that out to the entire school and I have the potential Internet traffic total of 26GB of data per week.  I can only see this total going up as we get used to and become more inovative with using the Internet as part of our classroom practice.  So what is the issue?

The headache comes from our access to the Internet.  I am busily ensuring that our network infrastructure is as fast as I can make it, Gig switches at the core, fibre links between the two sites, Cat 6 cabling for all new cabling and in 2008 all edge switches will be upgraded to have fibre modules in them so that fibre runs to all switches.  All new machines on the network will have 10/100/1000 LAN cards in them, so our network will be reasonably fast, then we hit the Telecom part of the equation.

We are on School Zone lite and can not upgrade to anything else.  The maximum speed on our current line is 512kbps and is more like 325kbps, now put 8.6GB of data through at that speed and you get an idea of what I am up against!  School Zone informed us last year that we could not go any faster until the Remuera exchange was upgraded. Last year this was not an issue for us, now it is and it seems that no date has been set for the promised exchange upgrade. Google takes an age to load.  Bubbleshare crashes, You Tube times out, blogging is a joke and  Wikis freeze.  I am busily encouraging others to adopt a new technology and turn their individual pedagogical supertankers and I have failure staring me in the face.  I have to solve this problem.

14 days ago I rang Telecom to seek some advice on what my options were, the School Zone help desk instantly escalated the problem to my account manager, to date I am still waiting to hear from them… Connecting New Zealanders. Yeah Right!  Bored of waiting for the personal touch from my customer friendly monopoly, I called Telecom business to explore the option of having an Xtra Broadband connection installed.  The woman who I spoke to offered me a very sensible deal and to be frank of all the computer operated options and the ill informed and bored telephonists that I had previously spent hours being bounced around,  she was the most sensible, helpful and honest person that I spoke to in the behemoth that is Telecom. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down her name, but whoever you were thanks anyway.  Her solution was to have two 50Gb broadband connections and to swap between the two as I reached my data limit on one line each month.  This was a sensible solution to avoid runaway bills, until that is I asked her to test the potential speed on the line.  After testing the line she informed me that down our road the cables are very old and can not handle speeds that Telecom would be prepared to guarantee of greater than 512kbps, even on Broadband.  The reason, she stated, was our distance from the exchange and the age of the cables in the street, we are 4.5km from the exchange.  So Telecom’s solutions, that  took hours of listening to un-helpful automated options and at least two visits to the shortly to be discontinued school points free phone number (what was that all about?),  ended up being more money for status quo.  Our Internet requirement has already exceeded line capacity and we know the situation is going to get worse.  The result is that Telecom have demonstrated a monumental corporate indifference to our situation, so much so that they are about to lose our business, I am now actively seeking technological alternatives.

I have contacted Wired Country who through Watchdog offer a Microwave link connectoin of 2mbps up and 512 down.  For this to work we have to have a direct line of sight to the Sky Tower.  Earlier this week I clambered up on top of our school hall to see if I could see the Sky Tower, unfortunately I could only see the mast and not the observation deck, it looks likely that our microwave option is already dead in the water, but an engineer is coming out soon to evaluate our site for such technology.  Keep your fingers crossed.

I have even looked at satellite connections! But they only offer 5 email accounts and their service is for networks of no more than 10 machines. It transpires that this particular service only offers 512kbps connections too. It seems crazy to me that a large school situated in the centre of our largest city in one of its most exclusive suburbs has to consider satellite technology to solve our Internet connection issues!  So what other options are there?  What is my solution?  To be frank I have no idea!  I am hoping that line of site microwave is the way to go, for if I need more I can always add another transmitter and split the traffic via the two transmitters and still keep volume and speed up at reasonable levels.  I have to say that the whole exercise has left a bitter taste.  No one seems interested at Telecom in helping us to resolve our issues, no one it seems is prepared to think outside the box to solve our peculiar situation, we are in a dip so line of site microwave connections will be troublesome.  What we really need is good cabling to our front door and Telecom have ably demonstrated that they are far from nimble when asked a simple question, even if the solution is technically challenging.  What frustrates me is that we are dealing with our children’s futures here and if the likes of Telecom think that there is no money in the education sector, then they are taking a very short term view.  Pretty soon these children will be tax payers and if the infrastructure they demand is not here they will migrate to where they can get it and if they do there will be no money in Telecom.

I am even considering funding our own fibre optic cable solution, but that has to be a long term project and does not resolve my looming Internet headache.  Any suggestions?



1. Marnie - September 14, 2007

I have no solutions to offer but I do know it is a huge issue. All the waiting we do for pages to load is lost learning time. I hope some solutions come up soon as it is a priority! Goodluck with the headache!

2. Ted - October 19, 2007

I am interested in discussing solutions. Can you please provide me with a contact number or email address.

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