Feb 20, 2012
Wow. Just yesterday my mum expressed amazement at how one word from Stephen Fry (“wow”) about her favourite musician, John Gomm, sparked a huge media interest and shot John Gomm to new levels of fame.
Not surprising considering Stephen Fry has almost 4 million followers on Twitter. It doesn’t take a genius to realise his Tweets have far reaching potential and can work wonders for anyone trying to make it big. He’s currently filming in New Zealand at the moment and has been saying some great stuff about Wellington city and even the humble New Zealand flat whites. That’s awesome product placement!
So how about if that power is used for evil as well as good? Wait, that’s far too strong a term. Pointing out issues/errors with a business’ service or products is far from evil. It really helps them to develop their core offering blah blah blah. But what if that information isn’t quite presented with all of the necessary details?
For those that don’t yet know, this morning Stephen Fry got out of bed on the wrong side and had a bit of a rant about both Telecom’s broadband services and their ‘contemptuous attitude to customers’. Mr. Fry’s rant began around 6am this morning with a couple of Tweets:
New Zealand so fine. It they have probably the worst. Broadband I’ve ever encountered. Turns itself off slows to a crawl. Pathetic.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) February 19, 2012
I meant “make (not male) a fortune and a fool of the complacent Telecomm and their contemptuous attitude to customers. Phew! Rant over.”
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) February 19, 2012
These Tweets also feature on Stephen Fry’s website (a mighty PR6 blog). It’ll be interesting to see if he follows-up with a blog post on there.
His Tweets sparked plenty of follow-up responses both in support and against Stephen’s rant. One responder included a mention of the Telecom Twitter account which may have been what prompted Telecom to quickly get involved to help find a solution.
At this point, the story was picked up by the news networks (and I’m sure it’ll get a mention on the tele tonight). The NZ Herald’s story ran with the headline:
Fry slams ‘pathetic NZ’ broadband
Stuff.co.nz went with:
Fry calls for Kiwi broadband revolt
While the NBR rolled with:
New Zealand broadband bagged by Hobbit star
All fairly dramatic headlines. Stuff also included a poll which has so far attracted 6,516 votes with 91.8% of voters agreeing with ‘Stephen Fry’s view that New Zealand broadband is rubbish’.
The whole situation has dragged New Zealand broadband into the spot light and, in particular, Telecom’s services and attitude towards customers. But is the flak that Telecom NZ have received justified? Or are we all just too keen to join in with a rant against a service that’s so popular to criticise?
The reason I’m willing to defend Telecom on this one (in terms of this specific example – I haven’t studied the reasons for our poor broadband performance – or even if we do compare that badly with the world – in enough detail to write intelligently on it) is because Stephen Fry posted these original comments without any background information at all and without clarifying his issue. He does later mention that he was trying to upload a video for a charity gig he’s attending today, but provides no information on how he was connecting to the internet.
For all we know, the video file size could be huge and he could be trying to upload it from his cellphone in an area with a weak wireless signal.
Now, of course, there’s no problem with venting your frustration. Plenty of people do on Twitter. Everyone is entitled to have a rant. But when you are a huge international celebrity and have 4 million followers, do you have a duty to have more consideration and take more care when it comes to brand-bashing? Was Stephen Fry surprised about the attention his comments have received? His later Tweets suggest so. Should he have been?
He does seem to have a solid understanding of Twitter. Check out this interview in which he stands up for a fellow Twitter user.
Following the media attention, Stephen does go on to clarify his situation and to outline Telecom’s response to his issue. Over 10 Tweets, Stephen says (I’m just going to copy his exact text to avoid changing his meaning if I try and correct stuff. Sorry Mr. Fry!):
Well, seem to have stirred up a hornet’s nest. It seems I exceeded a d’load limit and had my BB throttled to a crawl: @TelecomNZ have put this right. Very quick and polite. But I wonder if everyone who complains gets this attention?
I think Comcast style throttling is a for the economy it’s disastrous, for visitors for everyone. It won’t stop illegal bit torrentinf. Makes as much sense as closing a lane of traffic because there’s congestion. Yes, kiwi land is remote, but if Avatar can be made here and MZ wants to keep its for being the loveable, easy-going, outdoorsy yet tech savvy place it is, then pressure @telecomNZ into offering better packages. Kiwis travel. A lot. They know 20MB is routine in Europe ( nothrottling) UK rolling out ultra fast fibreoptic. S Korea miles ahead
Come on New Zealand. You’re world champions at rugby & filmmaking. Pressure the providers to stop it being a digital embarrassment if I wants that kind of compromise. In all swift response, but unsdrstandbly. There was instant press interest. I’m no one special- I was offered mobile 3G SIMS in a stock as a replacement for the down home service. I could tether a PAYH local Vodafone phone
Your local customers should be special. They need choice, service, understanding and respect. Phew! That probably enough on that xx
Plus I got my part numbers muddled up & lots of typos. But doing this on the run in a short lunch break Hope you all see what I’m getting at
So the reason for Stephen’s very first rant was simply because he had exceeded a bandwidth limit. That makes a lot of sense when you look back at his first Tweet: “turns itself off, slows to a crawl”.
Stephen credits Telecom for putting this right but asks if everyone who complains gets this attention? Is that fair? If an everyday New Zealander had called Telecom customer service with the same problem and had given all of the necessary details … surely the call centre staff would respond to explain about the bandwidth limit and that would be it? Is it Telecom’s fault that whichever building’s network he was connected to (if that was the case) hadn’t communicated the bandwidth limit?
Sure it could be Telecom’s fault that they didn’t communicate this – but that’s the problem. We don’t know. We don’t know the full background but thousands of us were pretty eager to support him in blasting Telecom.
Interestingly, a fair few people have stood up for Telecom and New Zealand’s bandwidth issues in general. It could be said that many of these people are far better placed to comment on our nation’s internet access than a visiting celebrity. Some of the Tweets encouraged some heated debate.
— Courtney Sit (@CourtneySit) February 19, 2012
@gnat To be fair the Internet was unusable when we where in NZ in ’08, ’09, and ’10, it’s much, much better now. Like actually working.
— Thomas Fuchs (@thomasfuchs) February 19, 2012
Everyone says this is true but on the other hand my iphone’s 3G is far better in NZ than th UK. #NZbroadband
— Ellen Pickett (@ellen_pickett) February 19, 2012
Telecom and Chorus built a kick ass network. Many people are crippled because they are too cheap to pay for a professional DSL install.
— Steve Biddle (@stevebiddle) February 19, 2012
To wrap up, on the one hand New Zealand’s broadband services could be better. There’s no denying that. But, and again I haven’t looked into this fully, do we really stack up that badly on a world scale?
And, regardless, it really does seem like Stephen Fry’s issue was actually quite a minor one, and one that he perhaps should even have been aware of if he had understood the terms of his current broadband connection. But maybe Telecom could have communicated this better? Could there be some kind of pop-up to alert you as to why your connection speed has suddenly dropped? Who knows. Did this issue warrant the media attention it has had? I don’t think so.
Stephen Fry appears to be a pretty stand up guy (and I really am a fan – just last weekend I used him as a subject of this blog post on how to embed a tweet on a blog post *shameless self-plug*) and I’m sure he would have been aware of the attention his comment would receive and perhaps wouldn’t have published his Tweets if he had realised the issue was related to a simple limit of his current connection. That’s something you should always be aware of if you’re roaming in another country and are looking to upload large files to the internet.