Seattle couple get massive fibre shock with $US27,000 price tag for internet install

Illustration of a fibre broadband connection
We might not consider our broadband infrastructure as a massive win. We should. Photo credit: Getty Images

There are many benefits to living in Aotearoa - and our internet infrastructure should be considered one of them, alongside our brilliant beaches and stunning scenery.

Even out in the wilds of Helensville, a rural town 40km north of Auckland, gigabit fibre is available to many people, with uncapped data plans available for around $100 per month.

Okay, it's not perfect. Those truly out in the middle of nowhere may have to rely on the likes of our mobile infrastructure or satellite broadband - like Elon Musk's Starlink - but those near the big centres generally have access to super fast speeds.

The same isn't true elsewhere, as one couple in Seattle in the United States found out to their cost.

Zachary Cohn and his wife bought a house in Northgate, Seattle, expecting fast internet would not be an issue.

"All six neighbours I share a property line with are wired for Comcast, but our house never was," Cohn told website Ars Technica.

The neighbourhood had been wired up with cable for years, with high-speed broadband available to all those properties - but not to Cohn's house.

Instead it took him months, including intervention from a local councillor, to get a response from Comcast.

It's fair to say the company's answer was unexpected.

According to Ars Technica, Comcast said it would require installing 55 metres of underground cable to connect the house and the couple would have to shell out more than NZ$43,000 to make that happen.

The couple decided they would rely on a mobile 4G network instead.

"I was just flabbergasted that a house like this, in an area like this, could possibly have never been wired for the internet," Cohn said.

Because the house is "in the middle of Seattle, it didn't even dawn on me that that was possible," he told Ars Technica.

Only old-fashioned ADSL, offering speeds of just 3Mbps download and 500kbps download, was ever going to be available to the couple without splashing out a fortune on new cables.

It can even be argued that New Zeakand is better off than our neighbours in Australia.

The National Broadband Network there has been plagued with issues and has cost an estimated AU$50 billion to deliver a network that's less competitive than New Zealand's.

The idea was to originally run fibre to the property (FTTP), but that was changed when Labor lost control and the Liberal Party took over, with FTTP largely dropped in favour of a network that couldn't provide the best speeds possible to a house.

According to website, "the multi-technology mix was touted by both the [Tony] Abbott and [Malcolm] Turnbull governments as being a cheaper and faster route to a completed NBN".

Instead, with FTTP back on the agenda under the new Labor government, an extra AU$20 billion will need to be spent to bring the Aussies in line with Aotearoa.

Technology commentator Mark Gregory said the original plan, from Kevin Rudd's 2009 government, would have only cost $50 billion due to the low interest rates in the years between now and then.

It all adds up to a current plan of adding just 660,000 homes to the FTTP network.

Meanwhile the NBN Company predicts that only 50 percent of end users will need a 100Mbps service by 2030, and that consumers will be willing to pay more to meet their need for additional bandwidth to support new applications.

Perhaps they haven't heard of more than one person in a house trying to stream at the same time? Or streaming games over the internet? Or any of the other multitude of reasons why bandwidth usage is going to spike?

The lesson is, if you don't want a nasty shock when you get to your new house and want to binge-watch the latest Netflix drama, make sure you check out what internet is available at the address first.

Most ISPs offer that service via their website, while infrastructure company Chorus also offers an easy check.

A quick check showed that Hyperfibre, New Zealand's fastest broadband is now available in Helensville, offering 2000 Mbps download and upload at a minimum.

Spare a thought for those poor people living overseas!