When Chorus launched Gigatown a year ago, it was never the company's intention to annoy people.
But as the campaign draws to a close, users of social media are breathing sighs of relief as the hashtags that once dominated their feeds go the way of dial-up internet.
The social media component of the competition ended last week, and the Kiwi town which has won itself cheap ultra-fast broadband (UFB) will finally be revealed on November 26.
But after 12 months of #gigatowndun, #gigatowntim and the like clogging up people's Twitter feeds, patience for many has been wearing thin.
"The extended social media hashtag competition of the past year has only annoyed people and trivialised the UFB, so there's a lot of damage to be undone," National Business Review's head of digital Chris Keall wrote on Monday.
Chorus says it's done its best to discourage spam and wants critics to move on.
"It was never our intent to frustrate and anger, and if they have felt that way about it then apologies to them," says spokesperson Ian Bonnar.
"But I would also encourage them to have a look at the entirety of the thing, have a look at the discussion that it's generated about fibre and the way that some of these communities have really engaged in it. Perhaps move beyond some of the frustration we're seeing with the hashtags and really think about, what is the opportunity of all of this?"
Many people complaining about Gigatown's Twitter takeover – particularly those in larger centres like Auckland and Wellington – might not even have realised it was only a small part of the overall competition. Each town taking part has also had to explain how it plans to use UFB to transform its community, collect support online, make videos and do quizzes.
Gigatown was initially open to any part of the country serviced by Chorus, but smaller centres quickly stamped their authority on the competition, which is now a five-horse race between Dunedin, Timaru, Wanaka, Nelson and Gisborne.
Mr Bonnar isn't surprised larger centres – in Auckland's case, divided by electorate – were eliminated from the competition so quickly.
"I don't know if I should be getting into social commentary or anything like that, but I do wonder if the nature of those [smaller] towns means that they think in a more sort of community level, whereas somebody likes me who lives in Auckland, do I really identify strongly as an Aucklander? Do I really identify strongly with the suburb that I live in? Do I really know my neighbours as well as others do?
"I think what you probably have seen in the towns that have really engaged, they probably do have a different sense of what community means to them."
The Gigatown experiment was developed in response to Chorus' unique situation as a telco with no retail customers.
"No other country in the world has this sort of market structure, where the company that builds and maintains most of the telco infrastructure just wholesales it – we only sell it to other telcos, who then market and sell it to their customers," says Mr Bonnar.
"We were in a sort of place where we were building this fantastic asset for the country and had nobody to sell it to directly, but thought we had a role in helping people understand what exactly it could potentially do for their communities."
So instead of just getting on with building the network, Mr Bonnar says Chorus decided to find a way to get people talking about what to do with it.
"When we set off on this journey a year ago we were developing a whole new campaign that nobody else has really tried pretty much anywhere else in the world, so we've been learning as we go.
"We've spent a lot of time being very clear that spam doesn't count, that we wanted to drive high-quality content and spam never actually counted towards the score. There was quite a big spike to begin with, but as people got to grips with what they needed to be doing – generating useful content – that tailed away a bit."
With 75 percent of the country expected to have fibre connections by 2020 anyway, Mr Bonnar says Gigatown's real benefit will come from getting people to think beyond just having faster browsing and downloads.
"At the moment what we do is we run fibre down the street, and it's up to people whether they actually want to get it connected to their house… We could just put the stuff in the ground and say we've done our bit, but actually there's a really huge opportunity for New Zealand.
"I think we actually have a responsibility to try and encourage people to think about the opportunity that the fibre upgrade presents for our country. We are going to be right at the very forefront of infrastructure anywhere in the world."
The winning town won't just get 1Gbps UFB at entry-level broadband prices, but also a $200,000 fund to "support entrepreneurs and innovators taking new services to market" and $500,000 to "kickstart community related developments that showcase how gigabit infrastructure and UFB can be activated for social good".
source: newshub archive