There’s a lot of talk about undersea cables and Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB). Although these are separate topics, they’re related, and they affect how you and I and all Kiwis use the Internet.
The Southern Cross cable bring us the Internet
A huge loop of undersea cable connects New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Hawai’i and the West Coast of the USA. It’s around 30,000 Km long, including a few short stretches on land.
Partly owned by Telecom NZ, the Southern Cross cable brings us the Internet.
See also Greg’s Cable Map that shows where all the world’s undersea cables are.
The cable’s at risk and has limitations
But a natural disaster such as an undersea earthquake could disrupt that connection. Also, a single entity has control over pricing.
What’s more, there are limits to how much data the cable can carry, and its maximum speed. In the decade since the cable was commissioned it’s been upgraded a couple of times. At some point though, it’ll reach capacity.
Think of how roads are widened to allow more traffic, or resurfaced for extra speed.
Pacific Fibre plans another cable
A group called Pacific Fibre wants to build a new undersea cable that will be faster, offer greater capacity and competition on pricing.
How does Internet go through cables anyway?
Why should we care about fast broadband?
New Zealand urgently needs more, faster Internet. The Government have plans to make Ultra Fast Broadband widely available.
15 years ago we may have been sending a few emails. Now many of us routinely upload photos, make Skype calls, send large chunks of data to colleagues or keep online backups. All of those activities need more oomph from an Internet connection.
Our businesses too need to export more ideas and intellectual services — we have only a finite capacity to increase our production of goods.
More capacity, more speed, more security and more competition on pricing will be good.
Is it just about watching more cute kitten videos?
No. We probably will watch more cute kitten videos, but that’s just a beneficial side-effect. 🙂
We’re like a village that’s lost out on trade because the motorway passes us by. Here are just a few ways a high-speed, low-cost, high capacity Internet connection could be used.
- family members enjoy frequent video calls with distant or housebound relatives, rather than sending occasional emails.
- scientists share huge sets of data easily with colleagues, perhaps getting the public’s help to analyse the data. For this kind of Citizen Science read about the Old Weather project in Could you crowdsource?
- health monitoring sensors on (or even in) at-risk people send constant updates to a service that brings speedy medical intervention if required.
- documents and services such as accounting live ‘in the cloud’ rather than on just one computer. Access your files from any computer with an Internet connection, and make continuous off-site, online backups.
- Kiwis export knowledge-based and creative work online to overseas companies.
- businesses work on data sourced from overseas in New Zealand, keeping people, jobs and their money here.
Our economic growth needs fast Internet
See what Sir Paul Callaghan says about why our New Zealand economy needs to focus on our creative sector and not just farming:
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, July 2011. This article has been modified for publication here.