Offline in Taumarunui: Internet blackout takes its toll

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Paying cash, reading books, and playing board games to pass the time – you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a year-end vacation or a childhood of yesteryear.

Instead, it is the central city of the northern island of Taumarunui.

Taumarunui, west of Lake Taupō.
Photo: User: Bgabel on shared wikivoyage / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Life for most of Taumarunui’s 4,707 residents has been much slower since 1:30 a.m. Monday, after a problem with the area’s fiber optic cable left them without internet for two days and no certainty as to when. it would be fixed.

Mr B, whom RNZ agreed not to name, said the lack of internet had turned basic tasks like going to the shops into a mission.

“I haven’t been able to use the cash machines, I know my local doctor hasn’t been able to process the prescriptions because he’s not able to send them to the pharmacy, I know that the local hospital is using a manual note system only like well … so it’s been quite frustrating,” he said.

With school holidays, many children had to choose between books, board games or playing outside – and entertainment options for adults were also limited.

“I just invested in one of those TVs that seems to only work on fiber internet. And of course I don’t have any streaming on my phone either! So I have no TV and no music , it’s a tough life,” Mr B. said.

Chorus owns the broken cable, and spokesman Steve Pettigrew said a road cave-in near Te Kūiti was to blame.

“We received a notification that there was a break in a fiber optic cable. We sent technicians first thing in the morning. They found the damage and it was a stretch of road that broke. sag and caused the road surface to sag and tests showed that was where the fault was,” he said.

Pettigrew apologized for the inconvenience and said cable repair work had started – but he could not say how long it would take.

“A cable that contains multiple strands of fiber optic cable now needs to be dug up, and then we will weld a new segment of fiber onto that cable…and in doing so, broadband services will begin to recover in and around homes and businesses. people. “

Some residents would access broadband using backups like satellite internet or their phone data, he said.

Mr B thought communication between Chorus and the Ruapehu District Council had been poor – ironically the council had posted on social media about the internet blackout but had not posted any flyers in the town.

His internet service provider, Trustpower, offered him a month of free internet as compensation after ringing the bell several times, but he didn’t know when he could use it and hoped it wouldn’t take a month. to fix it.

Mr B said prolonged isolation from the online world would impact Taumarunui.

“We are geographically isolated as it is, so being isolated without the internet is really quite hard to bear, especially with the current situation across the country with Covid, the cost of living… It’s something else that we could we pass.”

In the meantime, he said there was a silver lining – a functional eftpos machine in McDonald’s drive-thru.

Chorus advised affected residents to contact their broadband provider for updates.

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