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Applications for $340 million broadband fund

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister for Communications and Information Technology

26 August 2008 Media Statement


Applications for $340 million broadband fund open

Applications are now open for the government’s $340 million fund to accelerate broadband.

The Broadband Investment Fund (BIF) contains $325 million operating and $15 million capital funding available over a maximum of five years. It is a key part of the Government’s Digital Strategy 2.0 package of over $500 million.

“The Fund is part of the government’s continued commitment to New Zealand’s digital future. Getting the best value from fast broadband requires confident, skilled users and the content and applications to drive uptake and productivity,” says Minister for Communications and Information Technology David Cunliffe.

“Our long term vision for rolling out fast broadband to all New Zealanders will see us spend more than $500 million in the next five years. This includes targeting high speed open access urban fibre networks, improved rural connectivity and improved international links.”

The BIF will be used to accelerate broadband investment in three critical areas:

• facilitating high speed broadband to businesses and entities such as municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals in urban centres;

• extending the reach of broadband into underserved regions, particularly in the rural sector; and

• improving the resilience of New Zealand’s international connections.

“Over forty submissions were received from interested parties on the draft criteria and process for BIF applications. The submissions provided valuable input into the contestable process for distributing funds.

“Our broadband package promotes the best fit between the best available technology and the needs of users in the region concerned. The Broadband Fund will maximise competition, assist investor certainty and give the best possible leverage for the taxpayer's dollar,” said Mr Cunliffe.

Applications for the Broadband Investment Fund close on 30 September.

More details and application packages can be found at: www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz

--


Questions and Answers

1. Application process

When do applications close?
5pm on 30 September

Why are there two application processes?
Through the submission process, some applicants said they would be ready to apply as soon as the Fund was announced. Other submitters indicated they needed more time to complete their applications. We have catered for both with the one-stage and two-stage processes.

Why do parties only have until 30 September to register their interest?
The application process has been designed in a way that will balance the needs of those who need time to build a case and those who believe they are ready to go now.

Isn’t there an unfair advantage for people already involved in the Broadband Challenge?
No. There are already parties who have said they are ready to go but we have streamlined the EOI application process to make application easier and quicker.

How can I get more help with my application?
The website www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz contains information for applicants, including a how-to guide and examples, to help people with their submissions. There is also a freephone number (0508 276232 - 0508 BROADBAND) and an email address (broadband.investment@med.govt.nz) for those who require further clarification on the process or criteria.

Why can’t I be assigned a case manager or see someone in person now?
To ensure there are no conflicts of interest and that the integrity of the process is maintained, MED must take a hands-off approach to initial application stages. Case managers will be assigned after applications close.

How will I know if there’s more than one application from my area?
BIF applications rely on support from local government which should be able to coordinate, prioritise and manage concurrent applications from their area. You are encouraged to contact your local authority to find out this information.

How do I know there will be consistent decision-making and my application will be treated the same as anyone else’s?
There was extensive consultation to make sure the process was robust enough to ensure all applications will be treated in a non-discriminatory and fair manner. These submissions will be posted on the website. Independent evaluators will also be used.

Is there a right of appeal if my EOI isn’t approved?
No, but the BIF will have future rounds for funding (the Fund is over five years) so you will be able to apply in future years.

When will money from the Fund be made available?
It is anticipated that the earliest funds can be released to successful projects will be in early 2009, following notification to applicants and contract negotiations.
Applicants who have chosen to enter the EOI application stage and applied for Applicant Development Assistance Funding (ADA) and who have been successful with both applications will be advised once the decision is made by the Minister. Note that any ADA funding allocation will apply as per the guideline documentation terms and conditions.

How do I draw down ADA funding?
The applicant guidelines outline the process, but you will need to invoice the MED for the approved amount of ADA funding. Before this you will have received a letter from the BIF Programme Manager advising of the amount allocated.

2. Application criteria

What projects are eligible for funding?
Projects that meet the eligibility and assessment criteria (for both rural and urban and in EOI and Full Application stages), and that are approved by Cabinet, will be eligible for funding.

What are the criteria?
The criteria and application process are both explained on the website www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz.

How did you come up with the criteria?
43 submissions were received on the draft criteria. These submissions were analysed and another version was produced. This next version was consulted on with key stakeholders and a final version created. This version was approved by Cabinet in August 2008.

Why have the criteria changed from that first circulated?
We have taken into account the results of the consultation carried out. A summary of submissions received is posted on the website www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz.

Who will receive the funding?
Any legal entity (including network operators, local authorities and community-based organisations) will be able to apply. It is anticipated that successful projects will be strong and collaborative partnerships between local and central government, the private sector and communities.

What if I’m not a legal entity now?
You don’t need to be a legal entity when you submit an application. The application process allows time for you to start the process of becoming one.


Isn’t the BIF just for cities?
No. There is a strong desire to improve broadband service in rural areas so there is a portion of the BIF allocated specifically for rural-based projects ($75m over five years).

Will this mean fibre to the home?
The BIF is a stepping stone to a vastly improved broadband service that is likely to result in more New Zealanders having fibre in their home.

For more information on the BIF please see the FAQs at:
http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/digital+pathway+fast+broadband+future


ENDS

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