Slow internet speeds in parts of Nelson are being put down to a movie streaming service, according to a national expert.
TrueNet Broadband performance expert, John Butt, says Nelson is experiencing a similar slowdown to many other parts of the country. He says he is putting this down to the recent uptake of Netflix in New Zealand after it was launched on March 24. Netflix allows subscribers to watch movies and television shows via the internet, clogging up network.
John says nationally, Netflix could account for 25 per cent of all internet traffic, a huge increase from nothing a month ago. “The ISPs [internet service providers] would have had to forecast that, for any ISP 25 per cent in traffic is a massive increase. I think the chances knowing it would be 25 per cent would be very, very slim.”
TrueNet has ten “probes” in Nelson which measure the percentage change in speed between the best and worst speeds. Two of those probes have dropped dramatically in speed over the past month, with one Nelson probe dropping from 100 per cent in February to 62 per cent in April.
With only ten probes it is hard to gauge a definitive regional slowdown although John says it is highly likely that slowdowns can be a regional issue.
With many website servers housed in Auckland the networks have a trickle down affect. If parts of the network become clogged up north then they can affect parts of the country further down.
“We’ve noticed that the Auckland-Wellington route appears to be clogged for Slingshot and Vodafone. If that is the case then the chances of traffic between Auckland and Nelson being slow is quite high,” John says.
One of his biggest concerns at the moment is congestion appearing on the new fibre network.
“We’ve never expected to see any congestion on fibre. We’re still in early days of fibre and nobody would have thought that now we would have congestion showing up at all. If the increasing number of connections to fibre make it worse then fibre will need to be monitored more carefully and at the moment we don’t monitor it.”
Richmond resident, Nick Rose, uses Spark ADSL broadband and is experiencing a “quite limiting” connection. He says Spark is blaming the reduced speed on their own Lightbox video service.
“We’ve got a stepson who’s always on it and a student who stays with us. We just thought there were too many people on the internet at the same time. I did the speed check on the Spark site and it was ridiculously low. I gave them a ring and the lady then told me that between eight and ten in the evening lots of people were experiencing a slow down due to the uptake of lightbox and the network can’t cope with it.”
Nick says he would like to upgrade to the fibre network but at the moment his only option is to stay on copper ADSL.
“We can’t get fibre until they put it in. Spark say that is down to Chorus.”
Nelson man Nick Rose uses Spark ADSL broadband and is experiencing a “quite limiting” connection. He says Spark is blaming the reduced speed on its own Lightbox video service, which is similar to Netflix.
“I did the speed check on the Spark site and it was ridiculously low. I gave them a ring and the lady then told me that between 8pm and 10pm lots of people were experiencing a slow down due to the uptake of Lightbox and the network can’t cope with it.”
Mara McIntyre, a Vodafone broadband customer in Marybank, says she is blaming the uptake of Netflix for her connection which she says has slowed dramatically in the past month.
“It takes a long time to load pages at different times of the evening. It’s very slow around 6pm to 7.30pm. I have teenage boys that like to get on the wifi, I thought it was them until I heard about the Netflix thing.”
She says that her household does not use streaming services but had recently upgraded to a faster connection.
“Our household’s not really into downloading movies and stuff. We used to be on a very slow connection anyway and it’s just frustrating all the time.”
Some broadband customers are feeling left in the dark with no sign of any upgrade in the near future. While many suburban broadband customers now have access to the fibre network some rural customers are still using dated technology.
Marleen Suy is one of the directors of Petes Lemonade in Kaka, Tapawera. She says she has always experienced slow broadband speeds in the area with speeds sometimes below what is expected with dial up. She says there is nothing that can be done by their internet service provider.
“At the moment we use Vodafone, before that we used Telecom [Spark], that hasn’t changed anything. We’ve contacted them, they say there’s nothing they can do about it.”
She says the slow internet makes it tough to operate a rural business.
“A lot of the things we do for our business are online, especially since we are rural we can’t just go to town for everything. Sometimes I can’t even do my internet banking.”
Marleen says the problem is that there are 25 houses and three businesses in the area, all located quite far away from the broadband exchange cabinet, known as a Conklin DSLAM. These exchanges are aging technology which are slowly being upgraded.
Conklin DSLAMs were installed in the mid 2000s to provide small communities in rural areas with an internet connection. They can support a maximum of 60 connections and are connected to the Chorus network through a single copper connection. Around 600 Conklin DSLAMs remain.
“Vodafone told us no other country uses them because they’re useless,” Marleen says. “I think if we are promised broadband and we pay for broadband we should be getting broadband speeds and not dial up.”
Marleen is annoyed that they are not currently on the fibre upgrade map with areas nearby with a similar population getting the upgrade soon.
“At Vodafone they said the infrastructure needs to be upgraded, we are not on the upgrade map, there is no clue for us as to when things will get faster.”
Facts for geeks:
Between February and April some probe panelists like 696 & 634 experience a worse connection. A small improvement is visible in 805 and 742.
Probe 528 is always poor and in a rural area. This is likely to be a connection run through a Conklin DSLAM.
Conklin DSLAMs only support ADSL1 broadband with a limited backhaul. The more rural connections, the slower internet speeds can become. Speed is also affected by the distance between the household and the DSLAM.