Trolley buses key to Wellington superiority

Wellington IT workers have several advantages over their Auckland counterparts. Wellington's CityLink network is the single feature of the capital that should have every Auckland network manager drooling.

A lightning visit to Wellington has convinced me that capital-dwelling IT workers have several lifestyle advantages over their Auckland counterparts. As I run through the list for you, some of them will seem a bit perverse, others trivial and a few downright daft.

But there’s one point of difference over which no one will be able to dispute Wellington’s superiority. I’ll come to it in a moment.

First, the perverse point: Wellington’s coffee is inferior. This, according to my theory, helps make Wellington superior. How? Bad coffee means you drink less of it, which is bound to be better for your health and saves you money. (This conclusion was reached after a single latte consumed somewhere along Willis Street.)

The Mount Victoria tunnel is a superbly effective traffic bottleneck, more so even than Auckland’s harbour bridge. This forces you to take a diversion around Oriental Bay if you’re trying to get to the airport in a hurry at rush hour, a much more picturesque route than is possible from anywhere to Mangere Airport in Auckland.

Wellington has trolley buses. They’re quiet, pollution-free and quaint. But more importantly, the overhead trolley bus cables are kept company by a fibre-optic network which extends for about 60km around the CBD (roughly from Thorndon to Wellington Hospital).

This network, called CityLink, is the single feature of the capital that should have every Auckland network manager drooling. Imagine affordable, 100Mbit/s links between you and business partners on the other side of the city. This is what 400 Wellington organisations have at their disposal. For the kind of business IDG Communications (Computerworld’s publisher) is in, this would be unbelievably handy.

The ability to send big graphics files — advertising material and pages ready for printing, say — effortlessly across town would be a boon. That’s not to say it can’t already be done, but not at the speed and price of equivalent businesses in Wellington. I spoke to the boss of one who said the only disadvantage of being connected to CityLink was that he depended on it so much.

The dark fibre network — meaning that CityLink merely provides infrastructure, not services — has its origins in a far-sighted decision a decade ago by the Wellington City Council. IT head Richard Naylor was instrumental in creating the network, first called CityNet, as part of a drive to extend the internet to ratepayers. It was a distinctly public service move.

Today CityLink is a commercial operation without links to the council, except that Naylor remains as technical director. The council is an extensive user of the network, using it to link branch offices and libraries. So are numerous government agencies and businesses, which pay from $500 a month for a 10Mbit/s connection.

Aucklanders should feel deprived, and ask why the council which runs the country’s biggest commercial centre hasn’t done something similar.

It’s too late to make it a local body election issue, and the need’s probably gone with numerous fibre networks having been laid in the Auckland CBD over the past 18 months (including by CityLink). All we can do is glance southwards in envy.

Doesburg is Computerworld’s editor. Send email to Anthony Doesburg. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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