Fred Alvrez leads a busy life from his home, 40 minutes from Kaitaia at the base of 90 Mile Beach. He is editor of Eco Living NZ magazine as well as New Zealand Security Magazine and also founder, editor and webmaster of the New Zealand Writers’ website.
He is also the IT manager for Te Runanga O Te Rarawa, a health provider in Kaitaia, something he likes to do “remotely when possible”.
“Our entire home is run by alternative power/solar panels, wind generators and an inverter for DC-AC conversion. We live on a goat track sometimes called a road, 30 minutes from any civilisation.”
Alvrez’s home network consists of two desktop PCs, two laptops and two phone lines. “We are on Xtra’s flat rate connection, which we’ve found to be reliable on the whole and quick; it connects at around 52Kbit/s.” He also has an Ihug account with a 20-hour limit as a backup, but finds it hard to log on.
“It always has a busy signal, won’t connect or simply won’t answer. We use Ihug for toll calls, which is why I put up with it.”
It’s all a vast improvement on the situation three years ago, when he used to try to connect to the internet over a party line. “You’d be online and somebody else would pick up the phone and it would cut you off.” The average connection speed was 2400 bits a second, something he was told would not allow internet access. “It was all right for email but terrible for surfing.”
At the runanga, Alvrez looks after a network of 25 desktops and five laptops. “We have a dial-up connection through Xtra and there have been major problems with it as we were originally told by Xtra that per-minute charges on dedicated lines would not apply so we left it open all the time.” After the first two months he received a phone bill for $550 for per-minute charges, something he was “not impressed” with.
“After negotiations we got half of it refunded, but still have the problem of net access. We really want all users to have instant, easy and quick access without having to wait for the modem to dial in.”
He says frame relay and ISDN are both too expensive for a small business and DSL isn’t yet available.
Costs for the home business run to about $200 a month between the tolls, internet access and mobile calls as well as the two-line rental. “We have 50 minutes off-peak free calls on our cellphone but it doesn’t work out here; there’s no signal.” The bill for the runanga is a hefty $2000 a month.
“If DSL was available we would definitely take advantage of it.” Caller ID and Faxability are also features Alvrez would love to see available in his area. “We have phones that can do these things but the exchange can’t cope.”