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Re: East Coast Earthquake 8-23-2011 - comment and a bit of a Christchurch Telco report :)
From: Don Gould <don () bowenvale co nz>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2011 20:13:50 +1200

On 25/08/2011 12:18 p.m., Michael Painter wrote:

So the "old corded phones" were to be distributed to those who have copper/POTS service?

I assume so. I honestly don't know where the phones went exactly. Most people still have a copper pots service here (though that is changing).

Kinda' off-topic, but what was the situation like regarding radio/television coverage during the event?

First, I wouldn't consider that off topic given where our media and internet is heading... :)

Radio - That was very interesting to observe. Clearly radio stations don't have disaster broadcast plans in place for content. When you're crying out for information about what's going on, the very last think you want to hear is an inappropriate advert break. The number of stations that kept broadcasting adverts for 'exciting things in Christchurch' was un-nerving. It's my view that media news desks also need to remember to listeners who are in the middle of the disaster area and are hanging on every word of their 'emergency radio'. To hear that my city is 'devastated by a MASSIVE earth quake and hundreds of people have been killed' every 10 minutes in the 'over hyped' news reader voice gets very alarming.

It was interesting to observe later in the day the whole tone of broadcast changed. It seemed the media started to realise that this was in fact a very serious disaster and not just something they could/should beat up for ratings and ad revenues. Many stations are now all broadcast out of Auckland (over 1000km away and completely unaffected by the quake)

We were told by health staff to stop watching and listen to the media because of the potential PTSD impact.

The radio stations did mostly consolidate down to two main transmissions. One local station was interesting to listen to as the announcer almost refused to leave the building, stayed on air and continued to take phone calls.

We have had one new local radio station establish as a result of the quake. A group further down the country brought a caravan of equipment and set up a temporary transmitter in the most impacted part of the city. The result was so successful that the station has stayed on air.

TV coverage was amazing. Not only did we never loose TV (though that's not much of a surprise as Christchurch is a flat plane at the foot of a big hill, so there's 1 transmitter for the whole area), but the coverage was very clearly edited. While people in the .us saw shots of cars with dead bodies, we didn't see any dead people that I can recall and content was very filtered. Clearly some very careful consideration was given in the TV broadcast space.

Having said that, the presentation was still disturbing and running almost 18 hours a day for a while, you have to turn off the TV.

But what was really the most interesting was www.press.co.nz. For weeks it streamed a constant source of information that was far more up to date that any other news source. The Press is the local news paper. What is amazing is that their building was destroyed and staff were even killed. Their ability to keep news flowing on to their web site was just something else.

In my house the Press web site was our main source of information and it was updated with a full range of stories faster than other media sites.

Impact on the media did become evident over the following two weeks. One broadcaster simply lost the plot at one point. It became evident that media presenters were becoming more effected by the disaster as time went on. I can understand this. Being told "Hey, stand there... because it will be a 'money shot'" takes some real guts when you consider that 'there' is in front of a building that could fall on you in the next aftershock.


Moving into an IPTV world is going to be very interesting in the disaster space in my view. We currently have FTA DVB-T & S and still have analogue transmission. So a 12volt inverter in your car and you can keep watching media. But what's going to happen in an IPTV world where most of the heavy data lifting is done via fibre?

Like many places around the world, consumers here are looking for 'more, faster, cheaper'. Regulators are wanting 'more competitors'. 50 years ago we had 1 provider with 1 TV channel. Today I have lost count of the layer 1 providers in my area.

IP is our Future...

In my mind, IP is very clearly our future disaster proof technology if it's used properly, or a disaster in it self if it's used incorrectly.

While I did loose text messaging, I never lost my telephone service or email connection. My phone service is on VoIP. I have a client on my mobile phone. So my service just transferred to my mobile even though my home lost power. When the mobile data 3G net failed, I then flicked to 2G GPRS data, then when that failed my power was back and we returned to the HFC cable.


One thing I will note is that once you're all 'IP', wireless technology becomes a much faster way of getting back on line. We had to relocate over 50,000 workers out of the CBD. Many businesses have commented that their only data choice was a point to point wireless solution. They were very surprised to discover how quickly those services could be commissioned and how much more performance they could get for the same money they'd been paying for fixed line service delivery.


Don Gould
31 Acheson Ave
Christchurch, New Zealand
Ph: + 64 3 348 7235
Mobile: + 64 21 114 0699

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