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Plea to leave RBI build to utility specialists

Media Release
18 November 2010


Plea to leave RBI build to utility specialists

New Zealanders are within reach of a once in a lifetime opportunity to eliminate the rural/urban divide by having utility specialists build the nation’s rural broadband network.

That’s the message from New Zealand Regional Fibre Group CEO Vaughan Baker, who is calling on the rural broadband initiative to be left to utility providers such as his members.

He has pointed to the Telecom/Vodafone partnership vying for the RBI fibre build while raising concerns that a rural broadband network owned and operated by service providers would create a conflict of interest.

Mr Baker cites the relationship mooted between the telecommunications heavyweights as being potentially contradictory to the open access and non-discriminatory principles the Government is pursuing with the RBI.

"What the government is presenting New Zealand under the RBI is a fresh start that will create a future of competition and innovation that can be on a par with urban New Zealand,” says Mr Baker.

“The NZRFG fundamentally believes that separating the services from the underlying infrastructure creates an opportunity for innovation to occur with services and applications.

“Relying on past models and players who have traditionally provided telco services to rural New Zealand significantly increases the risk of missing out on a fresh start and ultimately receiving a world class communications platform.”

Mr Baker says local ownership is essential to a successful rural broadband fibre network build and because fibre is a utility asset, be believes it should be left to the people who know how to build and operate utility infrastructure.

"The NZRFG membership is comprised of companies who have been successfully constructing and managing utility assets for over 100 years and many in the group have already invested heavily in building open access, wholesale only, fibre networks amongst their communities.

"Investment in rural is essential and we believe that the companies engaged to bring the RBI to fruition must exhibit a long-standing willingness to invest in rural and be dedicated to doing so in future. That is imperative if the benefits to rural New Zealand that the Government expects under the scheme are to be delivered," says Mr Baker.

“The Government has already stated that fibre networks are a utility build and that is something our members have done day in, day out, for a century in many cases.”

“We’ve said from early last year that we want to be part of this broadband process provided it remains on a level playing field, is commercially viable and serves our stakeholders well.”

Mr Baker says the NZRFG remains committed to exceeding the Government’s RBI expectations and to close the rural/urban divide by taking widespread fibre connectivity to New Zealand’s rural heartland.

The group will connect schools at speeds of 1Gbps - 10 times faster than the proposed Government requirement – and homes, businesses and healthcare facilities at 100Mbps.

“5Mbps isn’t good enough for such an integral part of our society and that’s why our members are already providing much faster network speeds to provincial areas. They will continue to spread their reach into rural New Zealand.

“When you consider almost a dozen NZRFG members are already operating a number of open access fibre networks and are open to working with an array of parties, it is clear that our RBI submission is the one most aligned to meeting the Government's open access and non-discriminatory requirements,” says Mr Baker.

ENDS

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