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AREDS Extends Probe Broadband Project To ‘Go Now’

AREDS Extends Probe Broadband Project To ‘Go Now’

Fast-Tracking Broadband To The Auckland Region Critical To Economic Development, says AREDS

AREDS (Auckland Regional Economic Development Strategy) has undertaken to enlarge the government’s regional broadband initiative as its first ‘Go Now’ project for Auckland’s regional economic development.

“Securing broadband access right across the region fits well as a ‘Go Now’ project for AREDS because broadband is a critical enabling infrastructure for many of the key industries identified in the AREDS strategy,” says AREDS Strategy Leaders Group Chairman Peter Menzies. “Many industries have a growing dependence on broadband. For instance, remote learning initiatives in the education sector, the developing health IT cluster, tourism, information technology and communications, and creative industries all stand to benefit significantly from increased broadband access. It is a critical tool for businesses across the region in bringing their products, services and creative ideas to world markets.”

Project Probe is a central government (Ministry of Education and Ministry of Economic Development) project to provide broadband access to all schools in New Zealand, and to rural areas which do not currently have broadband access available. A secondary objective is to improve competition for the provision of broadband access. Government has committed millions of dollars to Project Probe.

AREDS is a partnership between business, central and local government, Mâori, Pacific Peoples, educators and the communities of the Auckland region. AREDS was established as a regional body focused on economic development for the Auckland region and sets out a vision of the Auckland region as an internationally competitive, inclusive and dynamic economy. It provides a clear outward focus for the entire regional economy.

AREDS has established a Broadband Liaison Group for the Auckland region to provide information on the demand for broadband in rural and regional areas, including businesses and other organisations, and add that to the demand from schools. The purpose of this is to aggregate demand so as to provide an incentive for a supplier to provide access in the more remote areas.

“AREDS recognises that the Auckland region needs to attract and develop successful export-oriented businesses,” says Menzies. “Widely available and competitively priced broadband access is critical to this.

“Broadband to business is like water supply to a community: without it, you won’t thrive, and you’ll spend considerable energy and resources trying to find ways of managing without it,” adds Menzies.

“We want to see broadband access available in rural communities alongside any other infrastructure service. People living in those communities have access to electricity, water services, telephone lines; we want to include broadband as one of these basic services.

“Broadband will deliver extensive economic opportunities, in particular opportunities for high quality commercial activity and encouraging wider participation in the economy.”

The eight local authorities in the Auckland region have jointly undertaken this project, which aims to see broadband coverage rolled out over the entire Auckland region over the next 12-18 months.

The AREDS-backed regional group comprises representatives from Auckland City Council, Waitakere, North Shore and Manukau City Councils, Rodney and Papakura District Councils, Enterprise Franklin and the Auckland Regional Council working with a contracted technical consultant.

Each of the local authority representatives will consult with their communities and constituencies and report their broadband requirements back to AREDS. This includes conducting an exercise to determine the pooled demand for broadband in rural areas which do not currently have broadband access. This information will be collated and used as an incentive for telecommunications companies to deliver broadband access to the more remote areas.

Compared with other OECD countries, New Zealand has a high penetration of computers, internet access and Information Technology in both residential and business, but has been slow to take up broadband services. Research suggests that contributing factors include cost, in particular usage charges, the lack of perceived benefit relative to cost, the range of technology options available, especially in the rural areas, and the competitive environment in the market.

In the coming weeks AREDS will make further announcements on other ‘Go Now’ developments.

AREDS stands for Auckland Regional Economic Development Strategy. AREDS is the product of eight months of research, extensive consultation and strategy development and was funded by Industry New Zealand and the local authorities of the Auckland region. It is about forming partnerships across the region’s communities in order to define a clear economic direction for the region’s future, one that is outward looking. The partner groups include business (including Competitive Auckland), central government, local government, Mâori, Pacific Peoples, educators, economic development agencies, migrant communities, youth and non-governmental organisations. The Strategy Leaders Group consists of people with strong links to these communities. Visit our website at www.areds.co.nz.

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