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Broadband crucial, Minister to tell conference

21 November 2005 Media release

Broadband roll-out now crucial, Minister to tell conference

A blunt message that rapid roll-out of broadband must become a high priority for New Zealand will be delivered at this week’s Digital Cities and Regional Networks conference by Communications and IT Minister David Cunliffe.

The November 23 conference in Wellington is seen by organisers Next Generation Internet (NGI-NZ) as providing an opportunity to kick-start New Zealand’s poor record on broadband uptake and the networks that allow this to happen.

Mr Cunliffe is a keynote speaker and says he will be calling New Zealand towns and cities to action. He will outline how communities with initiatives for broadband networks and IT provision can apply for support from two new government funds totaling $44.7m, designed to encourge more connections into the digital loop.

“New Zealanders are dragging behind many other OECD nations on getting connected to broadband. It’s more than time for things to really start to click,” says Mr Cunliffe. “I will be outlining to the conference just how crucial broadband networks are to our ambitions to become a wealthier nation.”

He describes the conference as a perfectly-timed opportunity for community leaders to get up to speed on how high-speed open access broadband networks can be established.

More than 130 mayors, council managers, economic development representatives and government officials have registered for the inaugural Digital Cities+Regional
Networks conference.

NGI-NZ chief executive Simon Riley says there is a revolution taking place in high-speed networking.

"Communities in countries such as Sweden ,Holland, Canada ,USA are funding and building broadband infrastructure in the same way they do airports, roads, and sewers.This is driven by the low cost of building optical fibre high–speed broadband networks

"Evidence from overseas is beginning to show that investments made in municipal fibre networks have resulted in increased business productivity and better public services ."

Digital Cities+Regional Networks conference speakers include community leaders from metro, provincial and rural New Zealand communities and representatives from NZ community broadband initiatives .

Officials from the Ministry of Economic Development will outline how communities can apply for funding to create or improve networks under the $24m Broadband Challenge fund and the $20.7m Community Partnership Fund, aimed at grassroots IT initiatives.

Expressions of interest for the first round of applications to the funds close on December 12.

Conference details and registration on-line at: http://www.digitalcities.org.nz

ENDS

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