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Broadband: a prospective election issue

NZCS Auckland Branch

13 June 2002

Questions about the government’s commitment to delivering broadband to rural areas have been raised in a recent meeting of Internet professionals. While the current government has promised $80m to $120m over four years, the impending election has thrown that commitment into doubt.

The New Zealand Computer Society’s Webnet meeting covered a range of issues including web design, web architecture, eBusiness and eMarketing and communications, with the broadband question taking up center stage.

“The question that came up most is, ‘how serious is the government about delivering on its promise of broadband to the rural sector over the next four years?’” said organizer Ian Mitchell.

“If we could get broadband to schools in rural areas then that school building is often at the centre of a group of about 20 families - so this would be a major step forward. Politically we have hit this problem before - rural electrification - and this was handled by grants and loans - but it still leads to issues of social equity.” The meeting was led by Paul Reynolds, and sponsored by Spherion Education.

Reynolds, who is known as a champion of the Internet revolution as a social and public good reported, "the audience was far more cynical than I expected. I thought they would have applauded the initiative. In contrast, though keen to see the whole issue of the digital divide become a big election issue, almost all of them expressed reservations as to whether modern governments could deliver on these big infrastructure projects". It would appear that even cyberspace isn't immune to the legacy of 'think big'.

Contact for more information: Ian Mitchell 09 521 1316/025 965 608

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