Every year a curious statistic is published by Stats NZ - the number of New Zealand residents on dial-up internet connections. This year it's down to 18,000, a 25% reduction on last year.
Stats NZ says this represents about 1% of internet connections and it defines dial-up as including analogue and ISDN. Five years ago there were 65,000 dial-up connections, making up 3% of all connections.
There are presumably two reasons why someone would continue with their dial-up connection - they can't get broadband and/or they can't afford broadband. There may also be those who like the sound of dial-up - it has a kind of nostalgic appeal.
It would be interesting to know if there are any dial-up plans still out there that you can subscribe to. Last year, when I looked, I found one from Maxnet, which ranged from $3.95 per month for two hours of usage to $26.95 per month for unlimited access. But it doesn't appear that this plan exists as an option any longer, indeed the Maxnet brand itself looks be close to extinction, with the home page basically a customer support notice.
Maxnet was long ago gobbled up by a larger player (in this case Vocus), like most of the other dial-up pioneers. Another brand that has gone the way of the dinosaurs (so to speak), TelstraClear, previously offered hours rates of $2.50, or a flat rated unlimited plan for $20.95. It's owner Vodafone maintains a page on its website explaining that dial up plans are supported, but no longer for sale.
So those 18,000 dial-up subscribers will continue to dwindle away, and with them the early sound of the internet. This is mostly a good thing, as fibre broadband becomes more ubiquitous. Stats NZ pointed out yesterday that there are now more than 1.3 million unlimited broadband connections at June 2018, a 16% increase from a year ago. And it's not being rationed like it was in dial-up days, with over 70 percent of all broadband plans featuring unlimited data caps.
Although it should be noted that entry-level fibre plans are double the price of the most expensive dial-up plans on offer. This is why accessibility is such an important topic, and moves to address this recently area by the Government's $1 million contestable fund to promote digital skills in homes is a welcome start.
The Stats NZ release came out the same day as the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment announced that "nearly all of the sub-contractors working on the Ultra Fast Broadband project for Chorus have been found in breach of employment standards."
This absolutely not how the UFB - a nation-building project that will advance this country's economic prosperity - should be delivered and it is appalling to read that vulnerable people may have been exploited.
The country's taxpayers have put up sufficient funding - to the tune of at least $1.5 billion - to help finance this programme. As Labour Inspectorate National Manager Stud Lumsden points out that "It's very disappointing that a national infrastructure project of this scale which is well resourced has failed to monitor compliance with basic employment standards."
In reaction, Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie has today announced it has commissioned an independent review of employment practices to be led by former deputy State Services Commissioner Doug Martin, of Martin Jenkins.
"We are extremely disappointed in the early findings of the Labour Inspectorate. Clearly this is potentially an extremely serious issue and widespread breaches are absolutely unacceptable. While we have immediately sought further information from MBIE regarding the cases, we also need an independent view to ensure all people working on Chorus' behalf are always treated fairly and within the law," she says.
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