Fry’s the name,@stephenfry. Well known actor and regular tweeter on all manner of topics. He’s currently in New Zealand filming the Hobbit and we in Godzone were all a flutter last week as he let forth on Twitter with his views on New Zealand’s broadband.
Here was a grumpy Stephen Fry unable to upload a file to the Internet because of our broadband speed. And sharing his exasperation with his hordes of Twitter followers. He urged us to rise up and demand better. “You wouldn’t allow cracked roads with potholes or single file”, he tweeted. I’m guessing he hasn’t done a lot of travelling on New Zealand roads. Perhaps he hasn’t been to the Coromandel Peninsula either, where until recently the single file Kopu Bridge was the peninsula’s main gateway from Auckland.
Rising with the birds shortly after 6am that morning I could scarcely believe what I was reading on my Twitter stream. Wow, I thought, this will be big. Nobody criticizes New Zild and get away with it – regardless of whether what they say is the truth or not. I hear it didn’t take long for talkback tongues to start wagging. It didn’t take long for the mainstream media to pick up on this either. A perfect story for the 6pm TV reality show, also known as the news, yes?
As it turns out, @stephenfry was only partly right. Sure our Internet speeds aren’t terrific at the best of times, but his had been throttled back by Telecom New Zealand because he had exceeded his data CAP. Data CAPs are a sad and limiting fact of life for Kiwis. How many of you have experienced data throttling when you’ve exceeded your monthly data allocation. If like me, you have teenagers in your house, then probably quite a few of you. Not me though. I’m on TelstraClear’s cable network and when I exceed my data CAP the good folks at TelstraClear let me know. And then charge a ridiculous rate for each additional gigabyte I use. And while I’m on a Stephen Fry-induced tirade, why doesn’t it work the other way; when we have gigabytes left over at the end of the month, why don’t we get to keep them? It’s not fair and we should all rise up!
It does help being famous, of course, and TelecomNZ were soon to @stephenfry’s rescue. Not to be outdone, rival TelstraClear took out a full-page advertisement in the Dominion Post later in the week. Brilliant!
James Griffin in his final word column in the Weekend Herald Canvas (25 Feb) considers why@stephenfry’s rant made national news and caused such a stir. His conclusion: Stephen fry is a hobbit cast member and his ranting could be contagious among the hobbits, dwarves and wizards he works with every day. They might go feral on our arses, he says.
What, writes Griffin, if Martin Freeman tweets about our awful transport infrastructure, or Orlando Bloom tells his Facebook friends about the under-resourced health system? Or worse, if Christopher Lee sends messages about the overstated quality of New Zealand coffee?
They might have a point on transport and health, not to mention the roads. But no need to worry about the coffee. @stephenfry loves the flat whites here. I know this because he tweets about it. So while his nearly 4 million Twitter followers now know how crappy our Internet is, they also know we have great coffee.
They say timing is everything, and as I write this, I see that Stephen Fry has updated his blog. His latest post is titled ‘Making an Arse of Myself in Wellington.’ “The whole point of this blog is to try and explain that I will always make an arse of myself from time to time”, he says. He is not alone there. It’s very easy to do, even in 140 characters. And don’t get me started on those silly Kiwis who get upset when anyone dares to criticize New Zild.