NZ accelerates rural broadband rollout

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 29 May, 2018

NZ accelerates rural broadband rollout

The New Zealand Government has ramped up the rollout of new rural fixed broadband and mobile infrastructure, and now plans to complete the deployment a year ahead of schedule.

Under the accelerated schedule, the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) projects are now expected to be substantially finished by the end of 2021.

The Rural Broadband Initiative aims to ensure the roughly 13% of the population not scheduled to be covered by the Ultrafast Broadband fibre-to-the-home network has access to reliable broadband services.

Phase two of the program is focused on regions where users cannot receive download speeds of at least 20 Mbps.

The Mobile Black Spot Fund is meanwhile focused on addressing mobile coverage gaps along state highways and tourist locations. The fund is providing coverage to around 1000 km of state highways where no coverage currently exists.

Both projects are mainly being funded by the Telecommunications Development Levy, paid by operators to help meet universal service obligations. Some funding is also coming directly by the market’s three mobile operators – Spark, Vodafone NZ and 2degrees. A further NZ$105 million ($96.6 million) is being provided by Crown Infrastructure Partners’ funds.

“New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography, and we have to close the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ to ensure people and communities benefit from the jobs, access and participation that a digital future brings,” said Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran.

“There is enormous untapped potential in our provinces — we have businesses with ideas and ambitions but they need infrastructure like high-speed broadband to compete equally in our 21st century economy. We want to let them know we are supporting them, and to let them know what’s coming down the line.”

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