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Stating the case for faster broadband for Auckland

Media Release: Auckland Regional Broadband Advisory

11 February 2008

Stating the case for faster broadband for Auckland

A group of Auckland local government officials has put its broadband ambitions for the region on the table this week and has raised questions about Telecom’s recent cabinetisation plan.

The Auckland Regional Broadband Advisory (ARBA) group’s document is in response to a number of recent developments, including the pending unbundling of the local loop and Telecom’s proposed $1.4billion investment plan. It also considers why an open access, fibre to the premises network is essential in the medium to long-term, reviews progress made since the government’s digital strategy was launched in 2005 and assesses Auckland’s position on the so-called digital highway.

“New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of internet use, yet we are ranked only 20 out of 30 OECD countries in terms of broadband adoption, and it’s easy to see why with our slow speeds, high prices, and heavy data caps,”says ARBA spokesperson and Metro Project Broadband Champion Ross Peat.

“Auckland councils are united in their vision to deliver enhanced broadband access and speed to the region’s residents and businesses because they know that it is a critical driver of productivity, growth and, most importantly, economic transformation.”

ARBA is committed to bringing about changes that will successfully see Auckland, and New Zealand, have broadband speeds of 50Mbit/sec by 2012, allowing for broadband-enabled services such as rich real-time multi location video conferencing, tele-working, tele-medicine and education applications, smart online support agents and ‘follow me’ technology scenarios to be maximised, and the Government’s goal of placing New Zealand in the top half of the OECD achieved.

However, 50Mbit/sec by 2012 is more than double the 20Mbit/sec by 2011 that is proposed by Telecom through its roll out of ADSL2+ infrastructure and the upgrading and installation of 3800 nodes/cabinets over the next four years.

Mr Peat says that while Telecom’s proposal is a step forward, ARBA questions the level of investment and the technology strategy being considered by Telecom, in the context of delivering top half OECD broadband services.

“Will the cabinetisation plan achieve Auckland’s broadband aspirations or is it simply business as usual – that is, incremental investment steps that ultimately reinforce the current models of operation and our relatively poor OECD standing?

“We already know that 20Mbit/sec is pushing the limits of ADSL2+ technology. We know that Telecom’s tests showed that only 7% of ADSL2+ users in Pakuranga were achieving something close to this level of service because of poor copper line quality, poor modem hardware, poor house wiring, or a combination of these.

“And hence the case for fibre as the long-term infrastructure solution,” says Mr Peat. “While recognising it will require a significant investment, fibre to the premises will avoid the performance constraints of copper-based ADSL.

“We also consider that any investment in ducting and fibre should be based on ‘open access’ principles to ensure a level playing field and to facilitate competition ‘on’ infrastructure rather than ‘in’ infrastructure.

“If Auckland is to truly compete globally, and offer a business environment and quality of life that is of an international standard, we simply must have widespread, high-speed broadband capability and uptake across the whole region. We must commit the funds and resources needed and support this with a comprehensive strategic plan and delivery capability which will provide the catalyst for a smarter, more productive, more connected, more informed Auckland.”

Ends

About ARBA The Auckland Regional Broadband Advisory (ARBA) is a group of local government officials that has been formed to provide an integrated regional view on the development of broadband in Auckland.

In 2007 this group agreed to work collaboratively, sharing the experience and initiatives of different councils and aligning this with the Auckland Regional Council developed Metro Project Action Plan (for more information visit www.aucklandplus.com). The expectation is that the alignment of all initiatives would result in cohesive broadband development in the Auckland region.

ARBA has already taken steps towards the goal of fast broadband services for Aucklanders, and are: Working collaboratively rather than as eight individual councils Looking to partner with the private sector in an open access network Working to ensure ducting for fibre optic cable is placed in all roading, pavement, and other local authority works Working to ease the consent process and ensure regional consistency for deployment of underground, aerial and wireless infrastructure Lobbying central government for regulatory change to ensure more competition in the market Planning further research with funding from the Ministry of Economic Development to better understand the barriers to broadband investment and to build a regional consensus and priority programme.

ENDS


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