Monday, May 12, 2014

Working from home - yeah right.

A New Zealand beer called Tui has a great billboard advertising campaign which has silly claims followed by 'yeah right.'

So, a Tui billboard might say, 'Working from home.  Yeah, right.'  The joke would be that a lot of people distrust remote workers.  They believe they are trying to avoid work by saying they are, 'working from home.'

Having moved to New Zealand 22 years ago, I sometimes say I am a 'victim of lifestyle,' meaning that I have geared my work habits to that of the locals, which is about balancing work and other pursuits.  I am generally not work-obsessed, and indeed enjoy disconnecting when I am on our beautiful rural property.

However, like most academics, I need to connect with students, research colleagues and others from home on a day-to-day basis and wish I could do so.  Unfortunately, even though I live within sight of the Sky Tower in our largest city, my Internet speeds are slower than most third world locations.

Here are the broadband speeds:

Latency 66 ms
Upload speed: .43 mbps
Upload speed: .20 mbps

Recall that dial-up is .56 mbps.

Also, bear in mind that our lines provider, Chorus, claims to deliver 7 mbps to our door, but no one seems to have anywhere near that speed in our homes.  The upgrade on our road is scheduled for 2015, but that's a long time to wait.

To add insult to injury, Telecom and other broadband providers are constantly showing ads for outrageous extravagances like streaming video, video calling and gaming. I would like to be able to surf the web from time to time to prepare for class or explore possible vacation destinations, but I would even settle for being able to send a few emails with ease, instead of the painful lag of basically dial-up Internet.

By the way, these speeds are consistent with my neighbourhood of Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and although we have tried our best, no one seems interested in addressing the issue.

I get that infrastructure takes time, but New Zealand's broadband charges are about 20-40% higher than the OECD average and it seems unfair to be charged all the money for what amounts to less than developing world broadband speeds.

One of the first books I read on what has become my life work was the The Social Life of Information (2000), wherein John Seely Brown (former Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC and Paul Duguid, Adjunct Professor at the UC, Berkeley School of Information describe the 'joys' of working at home, where professionals of all callings are forced to serve as their own IT help desk and infrastructure troubleshooter.  Duguid was right, working at home is not always as joyfully seamless as some imagine.  You spend a lot of time working just to keep private systems on line and up to speed.  Telecom gets their payment no matter what they deliver, while we waste our time on the World Wide Wait.

The Tui billboard I would like to write is this one: 'Working at home.  I wish!'


Unknown said...

Wow! Your internet speeds are outrageous!

Reliable internet connection is really important for people who work from home. My Canadian friend once told me that she usually works from home in winter because snow piles up so high that she cannot get out of her home. If she had your internet speeds, she would have to trek through 4-metre-high snow pile to go to work. And that would be very unpleasant....


Connectivity Corner said...

Yes, Ammie. Ridiculous! I am not a workaholic, but have come to realise just how many simple work related things (let alone personal things) most of us do from home.

Lachlan said...

That is really, really slow internet.
However, I think dial up was 56 kbps, not mbps, so 0.4 mbps is still quite a bit faster than dial up.
We've just moved to Bethells and I'm getting 2 mbps, which is not terrible, but far from the 7 mbps we had in Mt Albert, and very, very far from the 100 mbps fibre we have at work.