Today the government announced that broadband will soon be available to 99.8% of New Zealand’s population after adding significant additional rural broadband and mobile coverage.
The additional coverage will roll out over the next four years as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two/Mobile Black Spots Fund (RBI2/MBSF) programme expansion.
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi says New Zealanders should be able to enjoy the benefits of connectivity – whether it’s in their business, at home, or when people are exploring the country.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says the Provincial Growth Fund will contribute $40 million towards the project, which will “ensure this vital technology will be available in some of the most far-flung parts of provincial New Zealand”.
Crown Infrastructure Partners will be providing improved broadband to 10,000 rural households and businesses, and to provide new mobile coverage to approximately 365 kilometres of State Highways and 59 tourism areas.
InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter welcomes the news and says all New Zealanders should be able to access the internet.
"The Internet is such a big part of our lives now. Not only are we using it for entertainment and communication, it’s now essential for things like banking, education, finding jobs and maintaining a successful business,” Carter explains.
"This is making it more important than ever to give more New Zealanders access to better Internet connectivity.” Crown Infrastructure Partners is managing the tender process for the broadband rollout contracts. $105 million is from the expansion programme, and another $40 million is coming from the Provincial Growth Fund.
“Of this total, approximately $65 million will be spent in the regions that are the highest priority for investment in regional development from the PGF – Manawatū-Whanganui, Northland/Tai Tokerau, East Coast/Tairawhiti, Hawkes Bay, the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the West Coast," says Jones.
“All of this investment will be going directly into building new or upgraded digital connectivity infrastructure, which provides a critical base from which to build the economic growth we need in these areas,” Jones continues.
“As well, tangata whenua will benefit with approximately 54 marae having access to improved broadband”, he adds.
However, Jordan Carter says the additional coverage is only part of the challenge of addressing the digital divide.
“Other solutions are needed to ensure people can afford it, they have the motivation and skills to use it, and they have trust that it is secure and safe,” he explains.
"We need to consider all aspects of digital divides if we want all New Zealanders to be able to harness the power of the Internet," says Carter.
"Today’s announcement is an important step in helping to close these digital divides. InternetNZ is keen to work on what we do next so all New Zealanders can make the most of the Internet."
Faafoi says that all three mobile operators will benefit from services from every tower. Eight new wireless internet service providers will join the programme.