Considering ultrafast broadband?

Smart meters are not the only source of potentially carcinogenic microwave radiation (microwave radiation is a Class 2B possible carcinogen) in your home.

The purpose of this post is to help you choose a safe internet system if you want ultrafast broadband for your home or business or live in an area where access to the copper system is going to be phased out.  (If you want a lower cost – but not as fast – safe internet system, the click HERE for a budget hardwired internet option that may be used in areas that still have the copper phone line system.)

Considering ultrafast broadband?

Be aware that some systems may have adverse health effects

With the roll-out of fibre optic cabling in many parts of NZ, a number of companies are offering new ultra-fast broadband deals.

While these may certainly be attractive if your current internet access is not reliable, there are some potential health and other disadvantages to consider prior to making a decision about this new technology. (However there are also potentially solutions, too, please read on for details.)

How ultrafast broadband works

While there may be variations, as a general rule, the basic set up to access ultrafast broadband via the new fibre optic cabling system goes like this.

  • Fibre optic cables are installed in a street. (This is a programmed roll out and you have no control over when your street gets this new infrastructure.) The fibre optic cabling in your street may be installed under your footpath or it may hang from the poles that support your  local powerlines.
  • Once there is fibre optic cabling in place in your street, you may choose to get ultrafast broadband, should you want to do this and have the necessary permissions. (See below.)  In some cases there is a charge for fibre installation.  In other case it is free.
  • If you want ultrafast broadband, the first step is to engage a company to install the technology for you.
  • Very briefly, the major installation steps are:

1) Connecting a fibre optic cable from the fibre optic cabling in the street to the home.

(The fibre optic cable between the street and the home may be above ground – as are the power lines and phone line for most older homes in NZ – or it may be underground.)

The point where the fibre optic cabling is attached to a home is called the External Termination Point (ETP). It looks like a small box affixed to an exterior wall. (NB: If any part of the property is shared (such as a shared driveway or a property for which there is a body corporate) consent from neighbours is needed prior to the installation of the fibre optic cables. People who are renting need the consent of their landlord.)

2) As part of the ultrafast broadband system an Optic Network Terminal (ONT) is installed inside the home.

This has to be placed close to an existing power point with access to household wiring. The ONT will not function during a power outage unless it contains a battery back-up system known as a UPS. (This may not be a standard feature and it may increase the cost of the ONT.)

3) A “Residential Gateway” is installed.

The Residential Gateway can wirelessly control devices such as a smart TV and a cordless phone.

A Residential Gateway also includes ports at the back into which devices such as a corded VOIP (“Voice Over Internet Protocol”) phone or, in some cases other type of phone can be plugged in, either directly or via an adaptor.

(NB:  For the link on this website that discusses the different options for a safe corded phone with a fibre system, please click HERE.)

Cable-based or wireless internet is also available via the Residential Gateway.  (NB:  The wireless internet (wi-fi) capacity of a Residential Gateway will probably be ON as the default mode. However, the wireless capacity can be turned OFF so please ask your internet provider or technician how to do this so that your Residential Gateway  does not radiate potentially carcinogenic microwave radiation into your home.)

Also:  Some Residential Gateways have a cellular (3G, 4G) backup link option. If they are fitted with a SIM card, this type of Residential Gateway can use the cellular system when the ethernet cable feed from the ONT fails. A user may need to check with an EMF meter or the manufacturer’s documentation that the Residential Gateway doesn’t send cellular queries or heartbeats even without a SIM card installed.

4) Fibre optic cabling may be installed in some of the walls of the home.

(NB: If you want this option you are likely to have to pay extra for it.)

5) In some systems, the existing copper phone line and phone jacks may be disconnected/removed.

Potential drawbacks and health impacts of an ultrafast broadband system of this type include:

  • If the existing copper phone line and phone jacks inside your home are removed or disconnected, this could leave you without a landline phone in event of a power failure.

    (NB: Don’t count on a mobile phone service being available in your area if there is a major event that causes a power blackout. In the part of Auckland where I lived which lost power after the fire at a substation in 2015, the local cellular phone network transmitters also lost power.  This meant that the only people in our street who had a functioning phone were people who had corded landline phones, which do not require mains electricity to work (because the local phone exchanges currently have diesel generators to supply power to the exchange and copper phone lines in the event of a black out in their area).

    NB:  Please note that it is possible to have a corded phone with a fibre system but it may require a new phone that will cost more.  Also, any corded phone that is part of a fibre system will require a back up power system (known as a UPS)  or you will lose phone access during a power cut.  UPS system are NOT standard part of the fibre systems that are being installed in NZ and will be an additional cost. The link below gives more information:

  • If the existing copper phone line and phone jacks inside your home are removed or disconnected, you will have no other option for a landline phone other than a phone that is connected to the fibre system or a cellular phone.

  • NB: Having to rely on any sort of wireless phone is highly undesirable as cordless phone use has similar brain tumour risks to mobile phones. (See here for a discussion of this issue on the website

  • Homes where there are children should prioritise having a corded landline so that children can make calls safely because children’s thinner skulls absorb more potentially carcinogenic radiation than do the larger and thicker skulls of adults. if they use a cordless phone or cell phone. Moreover, for most models of cordless phones, the phone bases emit microwave radiation 24/7 even when the phone is not in use.

It may be possible to find a good quality compatible corded VOIP phone if you do some research but voice quality on VOIP phones can be poorer and some may not be good enough for people who have any hearing deficits or those who need to speak on the phone in a language that is not their native tongue. VOIP phones do not work without electricity so (unlike a corded landline phone connected to the copper system) it would be useless if your home loses power in an emergency unless you pay for an additional back up system. (Please see this link for details: )

Are there solutions?

Theoretically, it should be possible to enjoy ultrafast broadband via fibre without the disadvantages and potential health risks of wireless phones and wireless internet.

If you are considering an ultrafast broadband system key points to check with any potential provider would include the following:

  • Whether the existing copper phone line and phone jacks will be retained and be in a functional condition if you choose to have the ultrafast broadband fibre optic cabling installed. (If you can retain copper cabling and phone jacks then this gives you the option of a safe, inexpensive corded phone via the copper system for as long as the copper system is operating in your area – although possibly you may have to pay more for this.)
  • What sort of line filters (if any) you may need for a corded landline phone with the system and how much they cost.
  • If you use extension cords for your landline corded phone, whether these are compatible with the system.
  • Whether the WANs (Wireless Area Networks) of the “Residential Gateway” can be disabled and how this can be done. (If the WANs can be disabled you can connect to the internet via a safe fibre optic cable rather than being constantly exposed to pulsed microwave radiation as you would be if the WANs cannot be disabled.)
  • Whether the Residential Gateway that the company plans to install has a cellular (3G, 4G) backup link option. (If a Residential Gateway is fitted with a SIM card, this type of Residential Gateway can use cellular when the ethernet feed from the ONT fails. If you  want to be sure that  your Residential Gateway doesn’t send cellular queries or “heartbeat” pulses of microwave radiation even without a SIM card installed, ask the fibre installer to provide you with the manufacturer’s documentation to show that this is NOT the case (or the manufacturer’s data that advises you how to turn off this capacity of the Residential Gateway, assuming that this is an option.)
  • How many Ethernet cable connections will be provided on the “Residential Gateway” supplied by the company.
  • Whether the External Termination Point (ETP) and the Optic Network Terminal (ONT) that would be installed have any wireless capabilities, and if so whether or not this capacity can be disabled (and how this can be done.)
  • What the system will cost.
  • What provisions there are for a refund if you are not happy with the performance of the system or if any components of the system do cause adverse health impacts.
  • What sort of back up system that the company recommends so that any corded phone that you may have connected to the fibre system will still function (at least for a while) even if there is a power cut.  (NB:  To read about the different options for safe corded phones with a fibre system and the need for a UPS (“Uninterruptible Power Supply”) system needed to keep phones that are connected to the fibre system running during a power cut, please click HERE.)

NB: There may well be other questions that you may want to ask; I am not a digital native and the above list of questions is not exhaustive.

I would suggest asking these (or any other) questions in writing (such as by email).

This would potentially provide some protection in the event of a staff member from any company providing incorrect information to you – as an email would provide proof that you were not given correct information about the system you purchased. This should potentially give you a greater chance of getting a refund or negotiating another satisfactory solution if the ultrafast broadband system did not perform as advertised and/or if there were undisclosed wireless emissions (or any other components of the system) caused symptoms necessitating removal of the system.

Stop Smart Meters NZ would welcome feedback from website readers who have had good or bad experiences with providers of ultrafast broadband internet services.

It would be especially useful to know if there are providers who will ensure that people who want to enjoy ultrafast broadband can do so while retaining a corded landline phone, cable-based internet and no microwave radiation emissions from any of the ultrafast broadband system components.

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