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Regional hi-speed Internet pilots

10 October 2001 Media Statement

Regional hi-speed Internet pilots

The Government is launching pilot schemes designed to bring broadband services to regional New Zealand.

Broadband is high-speed two-way Internet connection, and regional New Zealand could miss out on it unless some way is found to make supply financially viable.

The Government wants to ensure all kiwi communities can access two-way high-speed Internet services by the end of 2003.

The pilots were announced today by Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton and Communications and Information Technology Minister Paul Swain.

Jim Anderton said broadband is crucial for New Zealand’s economic and social development, and it is fundamental to transforming our economy.

“Connecting more businesses raises productivity, reduces costs and fosters innovation and industry development.

“New Zealanders need to be connected to participate fully in education, social and community networks and in employment,” Jim Anderton said.

The focus of the pilots will be finding ways to make broadband commercially viable.

The Ministry of Economic Development will fund the pilots at a total cost of up to $300,000.

Up to six pilots will be established in Northland, Southland, Taranaki, Wairarapa, South Waikato and East Cape.

Some of those regions are ready to start straight away, others will take a little longer. Negotiations with regional groups are underway to get start-up as quickly as possible.
Paul Swain said local facilitators will work in partnership with local government, communities and service providers.

“The pilots will test the potential for bringing together demand for broadband services in a particular region in a way that is commercially attractive for suppliers.

“For example, it may not be commercially viable for a telecommunications company to provide a broadband link to one or two businesses in a remote community. But if a number of businesses and consumers in a community pool their demand, that could be the difference between the service going ahead or not.

“The pilots will support initiatives driven by the communities themselves and by the suppliers. They are not driven top-down from the Government.”

Jim Anderton said vibrant regions required the same access to Internet services as the rest of New Zealand.

Paul Swain said today’s announcement is part of an overall approach by government to allow New Zealanders to have access to the new information and communication technologies for economic and social development.

“Information from the pilots will be available to other regions and given other initiatives going on like that of Telecom and the Otago Community Trust I am confident that the end of 2003 target is achievable for all New Zealand,” he said.

“Other countries are faced with the same problem of lack of Internet access for all of its communities and New Zealand has a chance to really leap ahead of the pack.”

Jim Anderton said this could be a huge economic advantage to New Zealand and it is important that we seize the opportunity as quickly as possible.

ENDS

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