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Broadband Fund Has $325 Million of New Money

Broadband Fund Has $325 Million of New Money, Gets Tepid Response From Users

By Jonathan Underhill

New Zealand’s government announced $325 million of additional funds to speed the rollout of high-speed internet services and lift the nation from the lower rungs of the OECD rankings for adopting the technology.

Communications Minister David Cunliffe announced a new Broadband Investment Fund, the first step of a 10-year plan to put broadband within reach of all New Zealanders. The size of the investment is underwhelming and the bureaucratic hoops for funding applications onerous, according to Ernie Newman, a spokesman for the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand.

“To be honest, I feel a bit underwhelmed,” Newman wrote on his TUANZ blog. “I foresee rosy times for the burgeoning consultation industry. . . by the time the consultation, evaluation and analysis is done, hamlet by hamlet, will the amount of money left to dig trenches through the streets of Waitotara cut the mustard?”

New Zealand climbed one notch to 19th place out of 30 nations in the six months ended Dec. 31, according to a Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's broadband statistics report released this month. The nation’s lacklustre ranking was partly what spurred the government to force Telecom Corp.’s separation last year in a bid to spur competition and improve services.

“Cheaper and faster broadband for all consumers will bring substantial economic gains that will transform New Zealand’s economy and society,” Cunliffe said in a prepared statement, released as part of the budget.

Providing a ubiquitous broadband service in New Zealand may require some $1 billion of investment, according to Paul Budde, principal of Bucketty, Australia-based BuddeComm.

“It’s all a matter of execution,” Budde told Scoop. “$300 million goes a long way if it is enough to trigger $1 billion of investment,” he said.


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