A few more questions as a result of the feedback I received today in respond to my story on the poor progress of Kordia's wireless broadband service which has amassed only 2000 customers so far.

Good post by Juha at Geekzone, which reveals the Government's own misgivings on Project Probe, but also outlines some of the porjects successes.

But first, an answer to a question: How much money did Telecom squeeze out of the Government as the winner of 11 of the 14 Probe regions? The answer is $34,376,895. Thanks to National MP, Craig Foss for supplying that figure.

A reasonable amount maybe, when you consider it was used to connect a good number of rural schools. But how much was spent on the unsuccessful Xtra Wireless service, which Telecom pushed in a big way back in 2003 - 2004 and is still subsidising using Probe grants to this day?

- And what was the breakdown of the Probe funding given to Telecom ie: how was it used - Telecom would not tell me?
- Why was no telephony service offered for Xtra Wireless when the technology allowed it? This undermined the economics of Xtra Wireless, because farmers would have had to keep their phone line for voice calls.
- How much did BCL/Kordia spend on getting the Extend service under way and what have been its operating costs to date?
- Why hasn't there been a Government investigation into the dismal progress of Extend?

And some feedback:

Richard writes:

We live in rural Southland. We regularly get "Your call cannot proceed at this time. Please try again later" messages when trying to make toll calls even within 100km, night and day. We've lived extensively overseas and believe me this is third world stuff.Furthermore, as I understand it, DSL on this exchange has at least twice the number of recommended subscribers and the backbone between Otautau and Nightcaps was in the ark. We frequently have problems with our DSL and in the past month many times we have been unable to connect at all or when we are able to connect to the local exchange it's at only 64kbps. We are unable to use dialup because Telecom refuses to talk with farmers about fixing shorting out electric fences, saying that we need to go and find the faults and then go and talk with the farmers about fixing them (yeah right). Wireless is not an option due not only to bad signal but also the useless plans/data caps offered by the so-called players. What a joke. If they made the plans appealing instead of ridiculous then the uptake would be greater.

They have set this up to fail and from your article it would appear that the money has just disappeared into Telecom\'s black hole. It\'s clear that they are nothing but a rapacious multinational corporation (I sound like a raving liberal!) with taxpayer funds merely being transferred to them for profit by their mates in government while the so-called consultants --- who are never held accountable for anything --- continue to belly up to and wallow in the feeding trough.

Surely the time has come to renationalise our telecommunications, which were illegally stolen from us anyway and sold off at firesale prices by a bunch of traitors who should be in prison rather than receiving awards. Of course the entity would need to be managed properly but a system of proper checks and balances (short leash and choker chain) should take care of that.

We have regularly vented our frustration to both corporate and political liars. How about a real in-depth article or series of articles that really dig into this issue and expose what is really going on, because it is scandalous.

Does the Herald have the stomach for it or is real investigative journalism that works for the good of the people of NZ now dead in this country?

From Paul:

Your article on Project Probe is very interesting, but has the government learned from this mistake? I fear the same mistakes are being made now.Lets say Probe connected 2000 people at a cost of $25 million - that's about $12,500 per customer! This was provided as a exclusive subsidy to one provider in each region.My company, NetSmart had to compete without any subsidy over the same period, offering a similar product (fixed wireless).

We connected about 500 people in the Bay of Plenty area alone. We deliver much faster connections at considerable less cost. With the subsidy I estimate we would have connected up to 10 times the number of customers. Even without it, our wireless network is now profitable.From my perspective the government has a straight choice for rural customers - support the big boys (like Telecom and Kordia) and pay dearly or support the smaller niche market companies like ours. I believe the second option will deliver faster and at far less cost. However, government policy on radio spectrum in particular currently supports the first option. With hundreds of thousands of rural customers at $12,5000 per customer, who is ultimately going to pay the billions of dollars this will cost?

From Greg:

This is extraordinary. I live on a lifestyle block where ADSL is marginal, and it was never obvious to me that a service like Extend even existed. Clearly Telecom aren't marketing it.And I'll bet it doesn't suffer from the same overloading problems that the Telecom Unleashed broadband suffers from...

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