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Anderton: Good rural Internet vital to NZ's future

Good rural Internet vital to New Zealand's future - Anderton

New Zealand cannot afford to let its rural communities lag behind in the drag race down the information superhighway, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton told the TUANZ rural broadband symposium in Timaru today.

"Rural communities are more important to New Zealand than most other nations. We are one of the few developed nations with a biologically-based economy – and that has its home in rural areas. It's the reason we call New Zealand the "Heartland".

"The Internet promises to be of immense benefit to rural communities and businesses, and therefore our economy. In succeeding as a trading nation we need to add value, be market led, responsive and adaptable. The Internet will allow us to harness our creativity, participate in global networks that will help maximise our potential and ensure we adapt rapidly to change."

Mr Anderton noted the potential for rural communities in progress already made.

"The launch of iPSTAR, the world's largest commercial satellite, now means there is no farm, rural building or business anywhere beyond some kind of broadband link.

"Landcorp, which has 112 networked farm sites round the country – 77 of them by satellite, with the remainder on a combination of ADSL and wireless broadband is a great example. Weather and other information can be sent to a central point, allowing trends such as the likelihood of feed shortages to be more accurately forecast.

"It can also help farmers determine if a certain cow is producing more or less milk. It's being used now on farms with 1000 cows. There is no interference from electric fences like there was with dial-up.

"Thanks to Project Probe, rural schools are receiving a similar level of service to urban centres. In particular, 65 remote schools get broadband by satellite. For those schools it means better resources, better administration and better teachers. It will also support rural communities and support the retention of young people in them.

"These examples are, of course, only signposts of where we can get to. We are getting on with the job," Mr Anderton said.

ENDS

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