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The New Zealand Government is investing $270 million to roll out Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) to 190 more small towns, and extend rural broadband to another 74,000 households and businesses, Communications Minister Simon Bridges said.
“We’re also bringing the completion of the UFB network forward by two years. By the end of 2022, our UFB program will provide more than four million New Zealanders with access to world-class internet,” Mr. Bridges said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English spoke about the announcement in Hamilton on August 29, where he was on the campaign trail for his party, as the country’s election draws near. The investment includes $130 million to extend UFB to another 60,000 households and businesses in 190 new towns and complete the network by 2022.
The investment also includes $140 million to extend rural coverage of high speed broadband under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) to another 74,000 rural households and businesses, and to deliver mobile coverage on 1,000km of rural highways and more than 100 tourist areas through the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF).
New Zealand started UFB in 2010 with the original goal of connecting 34 towns to “world-class fiber-to-the-premises” said Mr. Bridges. UFB uses fiber optic cables to deliver broadband to households and businesses. It is most suitable and cost effective in urban areas with higher living and business densities. Earlier in the year NZ expanded UFB to 200 more towns, and the new announcement will bring NZ to 390.
Because UFB is not feasible for every rural community, the RBI provides faster internet to homes and businesses outside UFB areas through a combination of fixed lines upgrades and new fixed wireless coverage. Over 300,000 rural homes and businesses already have access to improved broadband under the first phase of RBI which was completed in June 2016.
The latest funding announcement is in addition to the $150 million the NZ Government has already allocated for rural broadband and mobile coverage. Mr. Bridges said, “We want to ensure that some of our biggest sectors that operate in rural New Zealand – such as agriculture and tourism – can benefit from the productivity improvements that better connectivity offers.”
The Mobile Black Spot Fund will improve public safety and visitor experiences by providing greater mobile coverage on stretches of State Highway and in tourism locations where no coverage currently exists, the National Party explained in a press release.
“We are providing coverage along remote parts of the State Highway network that until now had no coverage at all. For example, State Highway 6 on the West Coast and State Highway 1 in the Far North,” Mr. Bridges said. “Better connectivity in these remote areas will enhance visitor experiences at some of the countries tourist hotspots.”
Together, the Rural Broadband and Mobile Black Spot programs will be delivered through the construction of more than 450 new towers, in addition to the 150 already built.
“Today’s announcement brings our total investment in rolling out world-leading communications infrastructure to more than $2 billion,” Mr. Bridges said. “Once complete, New Zealand will be in the top five countries in the OECD for access to high speed broadband. Considering that in 2011 we were placed 26th with very little connectivity that will be a fantastic achievement.”