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Spark launches subsidised broadband to jump Digital Divide

Posted on 22-Sep-2016 14:52 | Filed under: News

Spark announced today a new social programme to bring heavily subsidised broadband to thousands of New Zealand children whose families cannot afford commercial home broadband services. 


Spark Jump is an innovative programme for social change. Collaborating with community groups and government agencies, Spark will offer families with school-aged children at risk of digital exclusion entry-level home broadband for as little as $15 - about a quarter the price of the cheapest commercial services available.  


“Digital inequality, especially when it comes to online learning, is a significant challenge for New Zealand. Every day, tens of thousands of children do not have access to home broadband and come home from school unable to continue their online learning,” Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter said. 


“At Spark, we believe New Zealand children deserve to have the opportunity to learn and thrive in the modern digital economy. Spark Jump is our way of helping solve this Digital Divide, by ensuring children have digital access both at school and in the home. It’s very much part of Spark's overall ambition to ‘unleash the potential in all New Zealanders through amazing technology’." 


Spark Jump will offer selected families a 30GB no-frills broadband service for just $15. To offer flexibility for families, Spark Jump is pre-paid, no fixed-term contract and includes a modem while they are using the service. The service uses the Skinny Broadband platform and provides “wireless” home broadband via a 4G mobile signal connecting with the nearest cell tower.  Wireless broadband is available anywhere there is a good quality Spark 4G mobile signal.


This technology has only been available in New Zealand since mid-2015 and a team from Spark, Skinny and Huawei has been working to develop a heavily subsidised solution. The new service has been successfully piloted over recent months with families in Christchurch and Auckland.  


Spark Jump will be administered by Spark Foundation, the registered charity funded by Spark and governed independently by a Board of Trustees. Spark Foundation will partner with local community-based organisations who will identify and refer eligible families.  Spark Jump won’t be advertised as a commercial product, it will be distributed exclusively through these community partners to nominated families of school-aged children.


Spark Foundation Chair Nick Leggett says learnings from the Foundation’s four-year partnership with digital learning pioneer the Manaiakalani Education Trust led to the development of Spark Jump 


"Our work with Manaiakalani has shown that the lack of home broadband is a barrier to New Zealand children's learning and that whanau engagement plays a big role in children's educational success. By enabling whanau to support digital learning with home broadband, we can help build on the effectiveness of the Government’s efforts to improve broadband access within schools, through the rollouts of ultrafast fibre and the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network.” 


Spark hopes to make Spark Jump available to at least 5,000 families over the coming 12 months and is looking to collaborate with government agencies and community groups to scale to higher volumes.  


Linda Tame, N4L Board Director and General Manager of the Greater Christchurch Schools Network Trust (a Spark Jump founding partner) recognises the significant contribution home broadband can make transforming educational outcomes of New Zealand children.  


"We have a big task ahead of us, getting our children in the best position for a digital future. Making home broadband affordable for more families is a step in the right direction to empower our children with the skills they need to lead New Zealand into a sustainable future."