More Spark Give vouchers distributed

We have received 451 complimentary $10 Spark Jump vouchers as a result of donations by Spark staff during the third quarter (ending 30 September).  They have been allocated as follows:

  • Canterbury 74
  • Auckland 151
  • Wellington 28
  • Porirua 14
  • Napier 7
  • Northland 28
  • Hutt Valley 28
  • Dunedin 7
  • Gisborne 7
  • Dannevirke 7
  • National 106

These vouchers have been distributed to partners in these regions for use at their discretion to support families with the greatest need.  Partners receiving the vouchers must provide details on the second tab of their Spark Jump registers, indicating how the vouchers have been allocated – refer to the instructions in my previous post.  Further details are also on the Spark Give Information Sheet that we send with each batch of vouchers.

For regions not receiving these vouchers, do encourage anyone you know who works for Spark to nominate your region when they join the Spark Give staff programme.

Modem updates – returning old stock to us is an option

Some Spark Jump partners are feeling overwhelmed by the need to update modems they are holding before issuing them, especially if they are holding large numbers.  If this is the case, we are happy to do this for you.

But it will mean sending the modems back to us.  It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense if you only have one or two – we are hoping that you can do the upgrades on these.  But if you have a box full or nearly full (3 or more, say), then we would be happy to send you a courier sticker for each box and a return address label.  We (well, Tom actually) can then do the updates for you and we can re-issue them when they are ready to go.

We  can send you a new updated box in the meantime.  If you would like us to help, please email us at: , tell us how many modems you would like to return and we’ll get some courier stickers on their way to you.

Checking modems for software updates

We have (finally!) worked out how to check whether or not modems that have not yet been activated need a firmware update.  As a general rule, modems received before September 2018 will almost certainly need the software update.  Modems received during September should be up to date, but will need checking.  All modems received from 1 October will already have been updated.

How to check if the firmware is up to date

Step 1:  Break the Skinny seal on the modem box and connect the modem to power.

Step 2:  Connect the yellow ethernet cable from the LAN1 port on the modem to your computer.

Step 3: Open a web browser and enter the modem’s IP address:

If you receive the screen below, the modem’s firmware is up to date and no further action is required.  Just unplug the modem and repackage it.

Note in particular the two parts of the screen that are highlighted below; if you see something different check out the next step.

No upgrade


Step 4:  If you see the following screen, this means your firmware will need to be updated.

Note in particular the highlighted area.

Upgrade needed

If you see this screen, you need to follow the instructions on the Stepping UP website to complete the update.  You will need to use Option 3 (Update manually using a computer) for modems that have not yet been activated.

Modem Update – is this a scam?

One of our Spark Jump delivery partners received a call yesterday from a concerned Spark Jump family.  They had received the email message from Skinny (see example below) telling them to update to their modem by clicking on a response button.  This set off alarm bells for the family. Recalling their training at the local library where they were instructed to be on the alert for phishing scams and to never click on an email response button unless they were absolutely sure they knew who the sender was, they did the sensible thing and called the library.  As it happened the librarian taking the call did not know about the modem upgrade (he hadn’t been connected to this blog, but now is!) and did the sensible thing to get in touch with us at DIAA.  We of course reassured him that the upgrade is perfectly legitimate and clicking on the email buttons just directs people to the relevant section of the Skinny website.  But, well done to this library on two counts:

(a) for covering online safety as part of their training when setting up modems; and

(b) for checking this out when they received the inquiry.

And accolades to the family for putting into action their training.  We are going to send them some complimentary top-up vouchers as an acknowledgement.

Skinny Notification

More on the modem firmware* updates

*Firmware: permanent software programmed into a read-only memory

This is now underway.  Families requiring the update will have received a message from Skinny with instructions.  If you get any inquiries from families about this it is probably best to suggest they call the Skinny Helpdesk on 0800 475 4669.

For pipeline modems, i.e. ones that you are holding awaiting issue, these may or may not need updating.

We have checked some recently issued ones and these already have the firmware update. So our suggestion is that before issuing any modems that you are currently holding, you do a simple check.  Any modem that’s already on firmware 21.329.01.01.1375 does not need to be updated. 

Instructions for checking the firmware version and for updating the software (if required) can be found here

If you need to update the software, we suggest you work through Option 3 in the update instructions (Update manually using a computer) if the modem has not yet been activated.  Alternatively, you can use Option 1 as part of your setup training (but only after families have set up their accounts and activated their modems). 

We have been testing these processes and not everything has been going as smoothly as we would like, but you are welcome to give it a try and let us know what you think works best.

Spark Jump modems need firmware update

All customers using the Skinny Huawei B315 modems will need to update their modem firmware in order to remain connected to the internet from December 2018.  This includes all Spark Jump families.  Unfortunately this is not something that can be managed remotely and it will involve every user following instructions being sent by email over the next week (starting on 19 September).  We realise this could present a challenge for some families who have relied on support from their library or community centre to get connected in the first place.

Skinny plans to deal with this as follows:

  1. An email will be sent this week to all families needing the upgrade with instructions;
  2. Families who haven’t responded by 27 September will receive a text reminder;
  3. From 8 October, families who still don’t respond will receive a reminder email, explaining they will lose service if they do not update;
  4. From 15 October the Skinny Call Centre staff will start calling families who have not responded and explain how to update;
  5. From 19 October, internet access will be suspended and families will be redirected to a page encouraging them to update their modem.

More details about the upgrade are contained in the Skinny CATM1 Q&A here.

We are hoping that the planned Skinny processes will reach all Spark Jump families, but some families may need assistance from local delivery partners.  We are also checking with Skinny to find out the best process for doing this upgrade during the initial modem set up with families.  While new modems will be supplied with the upgrade, modems currently being held will need updating.

Modem returns

We have experienced problems with returned modems not being correctly re-set.  This has surfaced because partners try to re-issue a modem but find it is already assigned to a Skinny account.  The reset process is supposed to both de-link the modem from the original account and add a new $10/30GB, so the modem is ready for re-issue.

But even when this happens correctly, partners are often faced with incomplete equipment returns.  Typically, the user manual and packaging are missing as well as the yellow ethernet cable.

The Spark Foundation does not want Spark Jump families feeling they are getting secondhand equipment, especially without the packaging or with parts missing. The Foundation has therefore decided to recall all returned equipment for refurbishment and/or repair.  Equipment suitable for re-use will then be supplied as new equipment in a new box, complete with all accessories.  These will not be returned directly to the delivery partner, but will be distributed with other new equipment.  The big advantage of this process is that when the modems arrive, partners can have confidence that they are ready for re-issue.

So, what do partners need to do when they receive a returned modem?

  1.  Complete the online form for returned modems here.  Please use your physical site address (not a PO Box).  This online form was previously used for faulty modems, but has now been upgraded to cover all returns.  Partners can also link to this from their Spark Jump Google registers by clicking on cell F2 (‘Returned Modems’).
  2. This will result in a prepaid pre-addressed courier envelope being sent to the partner.
  3. Simply insert the returned modem with any packaging and accessories and call the courier company to collect.
  4. That’s it.  It is unlikely you will ever see this particular modem again, but if you do, you can be confident it be the same as new one.
  5. Our Spark Jump support team also receives a copy of the online form and will redline (shade red) the Google register entry.  This means the modem has been withdrawn and is being sent for refurbishment/repair.
  6. If a courier bag does not arrive within 7-10 days, please contact our support team on 0800 463 422.

Spark Jump – DS31 Handout & Survey

The DS31 Spark Jump handout has recently been updated to include instructions on how to connect a smartphone to a Spark Jump modem.   If you have time in your session to show each participant how to connect their phones then please do so, otherwise families should be able to follow the steps in their handout when they get home.

Also note a new Spark Jump survey at the end of this handout.  The survey has been designed by our DIAA researcher and is significantly shorter than the Stepping UP generic survey.  It will take a participant 3-4 minutes to complete and we would appreciate your Spark Jump trainers allowing time for this at the end of each session.  We will share the statistics from this survey with your organisation on a quarterly basis.

Spark Jump Test Modems

A number of partners have requested use of a Spark Jump modem as a Test Modem, i.e. one that they can use for training and for testing performance in marginal coverage areas.  Spark Foundation has approved this use, which is generally limited to one unit per delivery partner.  Someone needs to be accountable for the Test Modem and must complete an online Kawa of Care with contact name and address.  We suggest that the School field in the Kawa of Care be used to identify this as a Test Modem, as well as a note in the Comments field (column H) of the Spark Jump register.  The pre-loaded $10 will expire after 30 days, as for other Spark Jump modems, and partners have the choice of topping up to retain the modem as a test unit, or advising DIAA ( that the modem can be reset for re-issue.

Spark Give Vouchers

Many of our partners will be aware of the Spark Give scheme, whereby Spark staff have the opportunity to make a contribution each pay day to a programme that they would like to support.  A large number of staff have selected the Spark Jump programme, with most contributing $5 every fortnight.  This means that each month these staff members contribute $10, which is the cost of one Spark Jump voucher.  The Spark Foundation matches this contribution and each quarter allocates vouchers to its Spark Jump partners.  For the last two quarters, DIAA, as a Spark Foundation partner, has received around 500 $10 Spark Jump vouchers.  These in turn are distributed to delivery partners in the regions nominated by Spark staff.

Delivery partners have the discretion to allocate these vouchers to Spark Jump families who they feel could benefit the most.  We have received very positive feedback from recipient families who are very grateful for this extra support.  $10 might not seem a lot, but when you are facing financial difficulties this can make the difference between retaining the internet or having to let it go.

Partners are expected to account for vouchers that they receive by entering details of recipients in the second tab of their Spark Jump registers. The number of new vouchers entered each quarter is allocated by DIAA in row 3.  Partners are expected to record the names of recipients and the number of vouchers allocated to each family.

If you are in a region that has not yet received any vouchers, that means Spark staff have not yet nominated your region, so this might be a good chance to persuade any friends or family who work for Spark to nominate your region for their Spark Give payroll programme.