The man at the centre of a global online piracy controversy says Queenstown is a first-class resort – with Third World internet access.
Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, who holidayed in Queenstown with his family this month, says he’d like to buy property here but would have to invest heavily in technology to run his infamous businesses.
The 39-year-old – whom the US Government is trying to extradite to face copyright infringement charges – says Queenstown is first-class but falls down badly with its lack of internet connectivity – “every single person I talk to about it, it’s a disgrace”.
“People here are really frustrated, especially young businesspeople I met. I’ve had a few meetings – they were, like, it’s unbelievable.
“You go to a lot of places with your mobile and you just have no network.
“For a place like this, which completely relies on tourism to be profitable, you need to make sure you have capacity everywhere – not just on that peak and on that peak but also on that road going down from the peak, that’s when you want to check your email, that’s when you want to make a call.”
Dotcom is sure visitors will tell their friends when back at home that internet is a big problem in NZ.
“That message alone will deter a lot of people from coming here, high-value people.”
It’s either that or Dotcom says they have to spend big bucks on a wireless uplink to operate here like Queenstown-based American travel photo blogger Trey Ratcliff who has millions of online followers.
Even though just here temporarily, Dotcom says on his second day in Queenstown he got tradesmen to upgrade connections to his holiday home so he could use his phones and laptops.
“If we didn’t do that the whole holiday would have been spoiled because I need to be in touch with everybody and do my things online”.
Dotcom cites Queenstown’s internet access problems as lack of speed, data caps and availability.
“The speeds are ridiculously slow, and there’s no end in sight. If you want to watch an HD video on YouTube, and it isn’t cached here in NZ, you just constantly have loading, loading, loading. The mobile speed is the same.
“If you live in any Western European city, you’ll experience nothing like that,” he says.
“The other thing is you have data caps here so if you watch four or five HD videos on YouTube, you might already reach your limit, especially on mobile.
“So they tell you to buy more megabytes – that’s just outdated. “
Dotcom says he took a Queenstown break, spending $20,000-plus to rent a Lake Hayes mansion, as he can’t travel abroad since his high-profile arrest last year.
“When you live in Auckland and you come here it’s like leaving New Zealand. Coming here to Queenstown is a whole different atmosphere and world.”
Dotcom raves about the pure air and clarity of light: “When you’re here, it’s unbelievable how far you can see, how beautiful the colours are, how fresh the air smells.”
After dining in places like Botswana Butchery and Saffron, he says local restaurants outperform those in Auckland.
“Everything is first-class, the food, the service – the service is fantastic. Everyone is super-friendly and accommodating and helpful and whatever you ask for, people try and make it happen.”
What stands out compared to other NZ cities, he says, is “just this good vibe and people being positive”.
Despite the bad technology rap, Dotcom remains keen to buy locally – “when I’m capable”.
“Right now the US Government is sitting on all my assets so that wouldn’t be possible. But at some point down the road I hope it will be and once we’re able to do it we’ll get something down here.”
Back in September, Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams visited to mark the beginning of work to build an Ultra-Fast Broadband network with new underground fibre optic cable.