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Canterbury Seeks A-Grade Broadband Network

Canterbury Seeks A-Grade Broadband Network

Canterbury urgently needs a regional A-grade high-capacity Internet network to ensure continued strong economic growth, says Paddy Clifford, Chairman of the Canterbury Broadband Taskforce and Chief Executive of the Hurunui District Council.

“Central Government, through Project Probe, is proposing to fund the installation of high-speed, or broadband, Internet networks throughout much of New Zealand,” says Mr Clifford.

The Broadband Taskforce, which has members from throughout Canterbury including Federated Farmers, 11 local councils, schools, and business representatives, has been formed to provide input to central Government planning, and to find ways that Canterbury can contribute to the broadband proposals.

David Rycroft, Economic Development Manager at Canterbury Development Corporation, says that “businesses all over rural Canterbury are constrained by the lack of reliable, fast Internet access.”

“If we can fix this problem, we are talking about a major positive impact on the whole Canterbury economy,” says David, “with the benefits of widespread broadband access likely to provide a real impetus to economic growth in coming years.”

Cities and major urban areas are generally well served by Internet providers, but vast areas of Canterbury have poor or no effective Internet access. The Internet and email are becoming integral in modern marketing, however, with customers expecting digital images and other information on request. If agribusinesses, fishing companies, tourism operators, manufacturers and other businesses are unable to provide this information, they miss out on potential sales and on premium prices, which are often available only to the nimble in today’s super-competitive market-place.

Project Probe, announced by the Government in this year’s Budget, was initially a strategy to provide broadband Internet access to rural schools, but the Ministry for Economic Development is now taking a community-wide approach, with five areas involved in pilot programmes.

Canterbury has responded by establishing the Broadband Taskforce.

“We want to see broadband pushed into the regions,” says Mr Clifford, “as we know it can contribute so much to rural economies.”

“This is the 21st century equivalent to building New Zealand’s road, rail and port network. It is not just about economic growth, but about education, about rural health, and about changing the way we do things,” says Mr Clifford.

“We also want to ensure that Canterbury gets the best possible broadband network, that it is future-proofed, scalable, affordable, and reliable,” says Paddy Clifford.

“As well as the best possible minimum speed, we also want a competitive, non-monopolistic market established around the network, which should allow for different providers to offer different services and product mixes, including such things as low-cost voice-over-Internet phone calls.”

“The broadband network will offer more than just high-speed Internet access, but a whole variety of communication, education, entertainment, and business services, which is what will make it economically viable,” he says.

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