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Taking up the broadband challenge

March 14, 2006

Taking up the broadband challenge

North Shore City is taking up the government's broadband challenge with the local council and network operator teaming up to fast-track high-speed internet for its high-tech community.

North Shore City Council and Vector recently secured a $50,000 grant to fuel their bid to access the government's $24 million fund* available to deliver cheaper, faster broadband to the city's homes, schools and businesses.

The council's strategic management committee today heard that, despite having one of the highest rates of internet usage, New Zealand ranks a woeful 22nd out of 30 OECD countries in broadband adoption with slow speed and high costs retarding economic growth.

Committee chairman Gary Holmes says his council shares the government's concerns over broadband availability, speed, cost and uptake.

"In many parts of North Shore City broadband is slow and, in some cases, barely faster than dial-up. Some areas are unable to get any broadband other than satellite, which is an indictment on our city that prides itself on being up with the play.

"We welcome both the government's broadband initiative and the opportunity to work with Vector to develop the application by May to access our city's share of the national fund," Councillor Holmes says.

North Shore City's senior policy analyst, Roger Matthews, told councillors that if successful, the project would increase access and speed to public facilities such as schools and libraries, and become a pilot to roll out across the region.

The need for world-class broadband infrastructure is identified in North Shore City's economic development strategy, adopted last November.

Mr Matthews says access to affordable broadband is critical if the city's technology and knowledge-based industries are to grow.

"Broadband helps businesses reduce transaction costs, boost efficiency and reach bigger markets.

"The government's digital strategy supports our city's economic development strategy by creating an environment where prices for broadband services keep falling and where connection speed continues to rise," he says.

The provision of open-access fibre has accelerated the rollout of fast broadband overseas.

* The aim of the government's Broadband Challenge Fund is to improve the availability of broadband internet access by providing seed funding to establish up to 15 urban fibre networks, and providing network access to rural and poorly served communities.

ENDS

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