From the government today:
- New contracts will improve around 30,000 broadband connections in rural homes and communities
- Govt on track to see 99.8% of all New Zealanders receive access to improved broadband as a result of various connectivity programmes by the end of 2023, including those targeting rural regions
- Applications open for one-off grant upto $2000 under Govt remote user scheme
Around 30,000 rural homes and communities will soon have access to faster, improved connectivity with an expansion of the Rural Capacity Upgrade programme.
Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor and Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications Dr David Clark announced the new 21 contracts signed by Crown Infrastructure partners will accelerate upgrades to towers and broadband connections in areas with poor coverage.
“This round of the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see many existing towers upgraded and new connections established in rural areas experiencing poor performance,” David Clark said.
“Some areas that will benefit from these improvements include, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatū-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and Waikato. However, the programme is by no means limited to these areas.
“This will significantly improve current homes and businesses and boost economic productivity of those with a slow unreliable and sometimes unusable connection,” David Clark said.
“We’re committed to improving rural connectivity and are on track to see 99.8% of New Zealanders receive access to improved broadband as a result of the Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out, Rural Broadband Initiative, Marae Digital Connectivity programme, and the Mobile Black Spot Fund by the end of 2023.
“This investment in rural connectivity sits alongside Land Information NZ’s roll out of our Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) service. SouthPAN will greatly improve the availability and accuracy of positioning, taking it from 5-10 metres to as little as 10 centimetres across the country.
“This will boost rural productivity through precision agriculture and horticulture, fenceless farming, and improve the safety of search rescue in the back country,” Damien O’Connor said.
Governments, alongside private sector contributions, have invested more than $2.5 billion into improving digital connectivity to date, and we proudly rank high amongst the highest in the world when it comes to access and uptake of digital connectivity.
Today, the Government has also released “Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa” which sets out the high-level connectivity vision for New Zealand over the next decade. This includes the goal that all New Zealanders have access to high-speed connectivity networks, and that we are in the top 20% of nations in respect to international connectivity measures (such as those of the OECD).
“With more and more businesses online, more people working from home, and access to many health services. The opportunity for greater economic growth is there, and should be embraced - but we need to make sure they’re there for everybody,” David Clark said.
“As Government supports farmers to grow our exports, reduce emissions, and maintain our international competitive edge into the future - making sure farms are hooked up with reliable connectivity is crucial.
“We’ve always been world-leading when it comes to farming innovation. It was a New Zealander that invented the electric fence, and Kiwis are leading the charge on what comes next. As digital technologies continue to evolve, we need to ensure, our farmers and their farming practices are well supported to evolve alongside it,” David Clark said.
Today’s announcements also follow recent news that the Government’s Remote Users Scheme is now open for applications. This programme will target the country’s most remote households and communities, providing some with broadband and mobile connectivity for the first time.
The first phase of the Remote Users Scheme will provide broadband internet services to an area by extending existing networks. Those still without coverage after this has been done, may be eligible to receive a one-off grant of up to $2,000 towards set up and installation costs of a suitable broadband solution.
You can access the Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa document on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.
Notes for Editors:
- The five objectives of the vision in Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa include:
- All New Zealanders have access to high-speed connectivity networks
- New Zealand is in the top 20 per cent of nations in respect to international connectivity measures (such as those of the OECD),
- Rural New Zealanders have access to the connectivity they need,
- New Zealand has resilient telecommunications networks, and
- Our telecommunications infrastructure enables New Zealanders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use energy more efficiently
- Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa also supports the vision and main pillars in the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa, particularly the Mahi Tahi-Inclusion pillar, ensuring high-speed internet is available to all New Zealanders.
- Work on action plans and initiatives is currently underway to work towards the objectives set out in Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa, allowing flexibility to adapt to changing technologies and new opportunities.
- The document aligns with the government’s manifesto commitments and complements other government initiatives such as the Government’s response to Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy, and Fit for A Better World.
- It is intended that Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa be reviewed within five years to ensure it remains relevant to current issues and technology.
Chorus has today welcomed the Government’s release of its “Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa” paper, which sets out the high-level connectivity vision for New Zealand over the next decade.
Chorus Chief Executive JB Rousselot says rural households currently outside the UFB footprint should be encouraged by the Government paper released today.
“There's a growing demand for unconstrained, high-capacity broadband and a renewed case to take fibre further and reach many of the predominately rural homes and businesses not yet covered. It is heartening that the Government not only recognises this demand but now has identified some key principles to support the further rollout of fibre.”
The Government’s paper highlights the need to take a long-term and comprehensive approach to supporting and enabling infrastructure provision and the need to provide enduring solutions that have the ability to meet future growth in demand for increased speed and capacity.
“We have seen enormous growth on our network in the past few years, with average usage over 500GB per month and 15% of users now using over a terabyte. If New Zealand is to meet the Government’s stated goal of New Zealand being in the top 20% of OECD nations in respect to international connectivity measures, then we’ll need to ensure we’re growing our fibre footprint so that rural users aren’t left behind.
“Fibre has an important role in rural connectivity not just where it enables fibre to the home, but in terms of supporting higher speeds on other rural technologies like wireless and mobile connectivity.”
The Government paper follows a recent NZIER report on rural connectivity that highlighted the potential for rural households and businesses to see benefits totalling $16.5 billion over the next ten years if they had access to the same digital connectivity as those within urban areas.
The report, Rural Connectivity: Economic Benefits of closing the rural digital divide, introduces the concept of 'digital parity' and calculates the economic benefits that flow from rural households and businesses having parity with urban.
Rural households were estimated to benefit by about $6,500 per year due to better access to broader employment opportunities and the ability to use telehealth services alongside easier online transactions with government agencies and banks.
Later this month, Chorus will complete its work on the Ultra Fast Broadband programme, meaning 87% of New Zealanders will have access to fibre.
“It has been a remarkable effort to get to 87% but it is not job done. The 13% left – 650,000 New Zealanders - includes many homes and businesses on the outskirts of our towns and cities – who deserve digital parity. They cannot be left behind.”
In the paper the Government also says in considering the support of connectivity projects, it will favour proposals that are environmentally-friendly and increase the ability to work and access services remotely or from home. Research commissioned by Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower last year showed that the emissions profile of fibre stays consistent as speeds increase, while the emissions for alternative technologies increase with speed.
The Tech Users Association (TUANZ) supports the government’s Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa statement of intent regarding digital connectivity infrastructure released today.
Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa outlines the foundation for the digital connectivity we currently have, and the areas that need to continue to be addressed in order to reach the overarching vision of enabling Aotearoa New Zealand’s people, communities, economy and environment to flourish and prosper in the digital era outlined in the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa released this year.
“The last two years of pandemic disruptions have highlighted the importance of high-quality connectivity when it comes to how we work, learn, do business and socialise remotely,” says Craig Young, CEO, TUANZ.
“We’ve been proposing a 10 year plan for some time now, so it’s great to see this is now in place with some clear objectives and principles on how the government aims to meet these.”
“While urban New Zealand has enjoyed a seamless experience, rural, sub-rural and remote users have not always experienced the same standard of connectivity. We are pleased the government has included goals to improve access to connectivity infrastructure, particularly for rural and remote communities, and are focusing on local solutions for local problems which we have always pushed for.”
“This statement of intent sets out some good ambitions and we’ll make sure we hold the government and industry to account.”
Insights from Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa have been published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Key themes include:
- Enabling more people to benefit from connectivity
- Digital connectivity progress since the launch of Ultra-Fast Broadband
- Challenges and opportunities for the future
- Government’s vision for 2032: All people in New Zealand have broadband and voice connectivity networks available to them that meet their life, work and study needs.
“Ultimately, we are pleased to see some clear goals set out and captured in this statement of intent. We will continue to push for improved access to connectivity infrastructure, particularly for rural and remote communities, and want to see this intent endure any change of government. Now we will wait to see how well the government delivers on these aspirations,” says Craig.