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New Zealanders live with ridiculously low internet data caps. Most have less than 50GB of data to play with each month.

That’s not much. And is low by international standards.

The usual justification is the single fibre link between the country and the rest of the world makes international bandwidth expensive.

This doesn’t stand up to close inspection.

Southern Cross Cable

New Zealand links to the world by the Southern Cross Cable Network. The same network is one of a handful connecting Australia to the internet. Southern Cross prices out of Auckland are the same as prices out of Australia, yet that country’s ISPs generally sell users higher caps.

Data caps exist because they give ISPs a pricing tool. They divide what is essentially a single product into a range of products with a range of prices. It means high use customers pay a higher fee. There’s a logic to this: those who use more data effectively subsidise those who use less.

Whatever the details, New Zealand’s data caps are miserly by 2012 standards.

Why this matters

In January we burst through the 60GB data cap on the Bennett family internet account for the first time. This happened one month after my daughters were given Apple iPads for Christmas.

It wasn’t  the first time Apple’s tablet triggered a download surge in our house. A little over a year ago we picked up our first iPad 2. The following month our data use climbed 30% to within a whisker of the, then, 40GB monthly data cap.

Devices like the iPad encourage data consumption. New Zealand is building a fibre network to deliver the bandwidth our increasing use demands. Now we need data plans that can also cope.