Apologies that this post is so long-winded. I haven't had a good rant for a long time now, but
have to get this off my chest, in the hope that it will save someone else going through what I've
just gone through. Don't read any further unless the topic is of interest to you. You have been
The first time I ever heard of Northland Connect Limited (NCL) was in June 2008 when they popped up
here on GZ and started this thread:
On page 2 of that thread, you will see my very eager response; it really did seem like the answer
to my prayers would soon arrive in our neighbourhood. NCL mentioned the possibility of setting up
a small repeater on our property and I replied by PM that I was very keen and invited them to visit
and have a look at the hilltops which were available. I never received any further reply and the
rest of 2008 rolled by with nothing much happening apart from a WiFi hotspot being established in
Paihia. A further thread was started on GZ promising a December 2008 release, and asking for
comments on proposed plans:
During 2009, I talked with NCL again and they expressed further interest in setting up a repeater
on our property. Despite my enthusiastic response, nothing further happened.
It wasn't until late 2010 I heard by chance that one of our neighbours had a NCL repeater site installed at their house. I was a bit stunned to say the least, because none of my enthusiasm had been reciprocated, yet they had done a deal with a neighbour without telling me about it. I phoned the neighbour, and she couldn't speak highly enough of NCL, saying that the speed, reliability and service were excellent.
After the holiday season was over in late January 2011, I contacted NCL again. For the first couple of days, I got very fast replies, with this being the first one:
Thanks for contacting me regarding this, was just thinking about your site 2 weeks ago and thought id must get in contact. we have installed and now operating a cell site at ******, depending on your location we will be able to offer you a service now.
I replied with my location and then got this response:
good news you zone is in perfect coverage aslong as you are not too low from you neibours "***** and *****" if you know them? they have a cell site on their property
im sure you will be able to im just concerned about the trees
however the mapping software says 100% from the address you gave me
If you wish I can have ***** send you all the sign up info and can have you on by the end of the
week if you like?
It was all sounding wonderful, and at this point I mentioned that I would prefer to do the installation myself because the equipment needed to be located up on a hillside 100 metres from our
cottage, so a clear line-of-sight path existed to the repeater, clear of the trees. I pointed out that I had around 20 years experience with RF and computer equipment, so was confident of being able to complete the install. Again, this didn't seem to be a problem according to the following reply:
Im more than happy for that to proceed however the gear would be shipped to you ready with the go-codes and SSID for the area.
please note that if a self install is done, no guarantee can be offered in the way of reliability as the technical department has not installed the gear and used the tools and cable gauge that would normally go out.
I do think tho with 20yrs exp you will have no problem
That was the last reply I got from NCL in spite of repeated emails and phone calls. Often the phone went unanswered, but finally, another person at the office explained to me that the technical staff were very busy with a network upgrade, and it would take some months. Another NCL customer had encountered similar problems with lack of response, and told me that the only way he could get any service, was by going into the internet cafe in Paihia mall, and standing there until someone came out.
At this point I decided to put the project on the back-burner and keep a watchful eye on NCL's website for any sign that their network upgrade might be progressing. On August 31 I saw a mention on NCL's Facebook page that the work was now complete, so I sent another email, which elicited a response that I cannot post in a public forum, since:
"The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by person or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited".
I was promised further contact inside the next 2 weeks with an update. The 2 weeks came and went with no further response, so I kept an eye on NCL's Facebook page which on January 6 said the following:
Northland Connect has updated its Network Coverage, take a look and see how much we have
I checked the coverage map, and sure enough we are in the zone! Everything was looking very promising, so I fired off another email and got another confidential response alluding to problems with one of the links connecting to our area.
This was the first I had heard of any problems with the local link, so again I phoned our neighbour to see if she had encountered any problems. Once again, she couldn't speak highly enough of NCL, saying that the speed, reliability and service were still excellent.
It was at this stage that I became suspicious, because I was being told two stories which were totally at odds with each other. Did NCL not want me as a customer for some reason?
Suspecting that it might be due to my non-standard installation, I offered to supply all my own equipment if this would help, and to take care of the entire installation myself. Today I received another confidential response declining to provide me with service under the self-install scenario. This was completely at odds with what I had been told a year earlier.
An additional reason for wanting to do a self-install, is that one version of the CPE used by NCL has a secondary Ethernet port, normally used for communicating with a webcam. I had in mind to use that for communication to a water pumping system on our property, which would have saved me running another 100 metres of cable from our cottage. However, if I want to do that I would need to have the installation overseen by an NCL technician and would also have to pay an ongoing charge for monitoring.
An alternative of a "locked down" installation was offered, pretty much as it says on NCL's website. Then came the kicker:
Please note clause 11d) of the NCL terms and conditions: Ensure that, under no circumstance, any settings programmed by Northland Connect are changed or tampered with. Evidence of this will result in a fine of $3000.
To say that I was stunned is a vast understatement! I checked on NCL's website, and sure enough, the same clause is repeated there:
As with most geeks, I like to tinker with things on occasion. If I mess it up, I take responsibility for getting it going again, and don't expect any free service calls. Seriously, even in Telecom's monopolistic heyday, they never threatened their residential customers with anything so draconian as a $3000 fine!
I have my doubts as to whether imposition of a $3000 fine is legal under consumer law, but that's another argument which I don't have time to go into here...
In any case, there is no way I will be signing up to any agreement which contains such a usurious clause!
What are the lessons we can draw from this saga?
1) If you want to offer your services to geeks, they won't take kindly to the threat of a $3000 fine simply for tinkering!
2) If you don't want to offer your services to geeks, why start a thread in a forum such as Geekzone?
3) Keeping responses consistent would also be nice. Why the complete change of heart from permitting a self-install a year ago?
4) Next time I should not be so patient!
As with many people, I like to give others the benefit of the doubt until they prove they aren't worthy of it. Also, I like to support the underdog, and give small local businesses the chance to get off the ground. However, the signs were there a year ago that NCL would not be a good option for me, and it's just a pity it has taken so long for the whole sorry saga to play out.
What will I do now?
My existing Kordia Extend connection has been extremely reliable for the past 8 years, but only runs at 1Mbps download, hence I was keen to connect via NCL who offer 20Mbps. Now that this option is off the table, I will probably look at sharing a broadband connection with a neighbour who has ADSL. In one direction it is 500 metres across a mangrove swamp, and in the other it is 1km over a hilltop and across some paddocks. In either case an RF link will be required, but at least I will have full control over it, and be able to tinker to my heart's content.
If anybody made it this far -- thanks for reading!