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Rural communities must not be left out of the loop

PRESS RELEASE
8 May 2006
For immediate release

Rural communities must not be left out of the loop following unbundling

Rural New Zealanders face uncertainty with the announcement last week that Telecom’s copper wire network is to be opened up for use by its competitors, with the unbundling of the ‘local loop’.

The Minister of Communications has said that a new rural package will be developed, but the details have yet to be announced.

Rural Women New Zealand is calling on the Government to ensure that the package brings equity of access to broadband services for rural communities, to bridge the ever-widening urban/rural ‘digital divide’.

Prior to unbundling, there must be mechanisms put in place to ensure competition doesn’t simply lead to ‘cherry picking’ of the more lucrative urban market by internet service providers, to the detriment of rural areas.

Technological developments, such as Naked DSL, will continue to bring change to the way telecommunications services are delivered. It is important that rural New Zealanders also benefit from these advances. Rural productivity and effectiveness hinge on the provision of a fast reliable telecommunications service.

At present many rural people are unable to access broadband through the copper wire network (ADSL), due to distance from telecommunications exchanges or aging wiring, and struggle with very low-speed dial-up connections.

Access to broadband is often only possible through satellite or wireless. While prices for satellite and wireless connections have fallen in recent months, the cost is still significantly higher than for (ADSL) broadband.

“There should be a level playing field for rural and urban New Zealanders alike when it comes to accessing telecommunications services,” says Jacky Stafford, RWNZ’s telecommunications spokesperson. “No family or business should be disadvantaged because they are in a rural location.”

ENDS

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