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Limping along in the Internet’s slow lane. July 22, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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image source: http://www.gobcn.ca/uploads/sH/9Y/sH9YyXtgT0_pDVnysHuJgg/Fiber-optic.jpg

During the term 1 holidays I was asked to be part of a Broadband meeting.  The great and the good, well the educators and business people who were invited, were asked their views of and the needs for the Internet infrastructure of New Zealand.  It was a very interesting meeting.  One of the business representatives there bemoaned the fact that upgrades in infrastructure always means that the user pays for the infrastructure and the increased tariffs of the new service.  He argued that the Telco’s who get a 20-40 year return on their investments should wear the infrastructure costs up front and recoup their costs on a user pays basis, rather like a toll bridge over the intervening years.  I have to say that I agree with that argument.  As the evening progressed I began to reflect upon the need for speed on the Supertanker.

Ours is a ratio of too many machines trying to do more with the Internet with a dreadful connection.  We have an ‘advertised’ service of 512kbps but only get 375kbps in reality, this is painfully slow.  I have gone over this before but feel that it is worth covering again.  When you divide 512kbps by the 183 machines that have the ability to access the Internet at school you soon see that the equal division of the Internet pie equates to 2.79kbps per machine, painfully slow!  In effect dead.  That manifests itself as frustration with the teachers who are trying to integrate this resource into their classroom pedagogy, but don’t trust the service and see no prospect of immediate improvement.  I know that not every machine is on-line all day all the time, but now that we have Mathletics in every classroom you can bet that every class that does numeracy will be using this service every day, so we do have real issues.  We want to use a service that we have paid for, but the infrastructure we use can not deliver the service we wish to use.  It is only getting worse, we purchase more machines each year and our expectations of what we can get out of the Internet increases.  The speed does not.

The proposed ‘cabinetisation’ of our local roadside cabinet is scheduled for late 2009, I will start holding my breath in 2010!  When this  service is implemented, we can look forward to Internet connectivity speeds of 2mbps and  an eight fold increase in speed.  This will be a good thing right?  Well no not really.  I have just come back from Europe and apart from free wifi access in most cafe’s and bars in Prague, a loss leader to get you to come and sit down.  The school Internet connection at Woodford School was 10mbps.  The UK has invested heavily in their network and schools are benefiting.  I have just read the following article about BT’s proposed investment plans to roll out fibre to 10 000 000 UK homes by 2012 giving them potential speeds of 50-60mbps.  I would dearly love a slice of that pie for school.

Is it right that our students should be limping along in the slow lane of the internet?  New Zealand needs to start seeing itself as an integral node of the Internet, not some piece of  furry cheese forgotten at the back of the Internet larder.  The Internet will increasingly offer richer content and a wider range of services to those who have the speed to access them.  Until our national and international infrastructure can deliver an equivalent level of access, we will continue to be pin mould on the cheddar!  We will be languishing in the dial up internet world of the first iteration of the web looking enviously over the fence at the users of the third or even fourth iteration of the web.

I for one am looking forward to the day when I can distribute my data storage to a service on the Internet.  I am looking forward to being able to use in a real and practical sense online programmes like Google Docs so that my TCO for server maintenance will drop.  This remains a distant fantasy whilst my connection to the largest and ever expanding information repostitory on the planet remains stubbornly fixed at 512kbps!

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Comments»

1. nix - July 24, 2008

Are you limited to 512kbps by your location? Or because of pricing? I am in a different part of Auckland to you but am able to connect to the internet at speeds between 5-6mbps – as is the school across the road.

XTRA’s pricing structure allows you to get full speed up and down (limited then by the wires) and 30GB of data for $100 a month.

So why 512kbps?

2. davidit - July 25, 2008

Nix the answer is simple, Geography. We are 5.5km from the exchange and have old crackly lines down the street resulting in many dropped packets further decreasing our performance. Our SINA/Schoolzone DSL circuit can only deliver 512kbps at that distance and never actually does, in reality we only get burst speeds of 375kbps, so the real world is even slower! We are currently in the process of swapping to jetstream, but again Geography is conspiring against us we will only get 2mbps when we swap over. Cabinetisation might see that improve. We are in a dip and so do not have line of sight to the Sky Tower therefore microwave is not an option, it is like trying to access the Internet from the back blocks of Canterbury, but with 750 users and not 50!


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