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Don’t let NZ be short-changed with sub-standard broadband

Media Release
8 December 2010

RBI opportunities still exist for NZRFG

Don’t let rural NZ be short-changed with sub-standard broadband speeds...

Frustration has surfaced over the shortlist selection process for the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative.

The New Zealand Regional Fibre Group, which has missed the cut, is questioning why the Ministry of Economic Development is persevering with contracting a single service provider for the RBI.

CEO Vaughan Baker says the group is disappointed not to be in the final mix and believes the MED should have required the separation of the services from the underlying utility fibre infrastructure.

"It is disappointing that our wholesale only, service provider agnostic approach has not been allowed to make the shortlist,” says Mr Baker.

“While we understand that rural presents a different set of challenges than the urban market we fundamentally believe that the separation of the connectivity infrastructure from the services carried over it is in the best interest of the customer.

“That is something that is ingrained into the DNA of our members. Unfortunately this model has been deemed unsuitable.”

However, Mr Baker says NZRFG members remain committed to helping the nation’s rural population receive the level of broadband services it will deliver to urban Kiwis will under the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative.

He says it is ironic that members have been the preferred choices to build New Zealand’s first urban fibre networks with speeds of 100Mbps but may have no direct part to play in building a rural fibre network.

Yet Mr Baker remains upbeat that the group can still play a key role in taking ‘fibre to the farm’.

And he is adamant rural New Zealanders deserve the same network speeds as those located in urban zones.

“Yesterday Northpower and Ultra Fast Fibre Limited (owned by WEL Networks and previously known as the Central North Island Fibre Consortium) were contracted to begin building New Zealand’s UFB network,” says Mr Baker.

“Every other member of our group is shortlisted for negotiations with Crown Fibre Holdings to build UFB networks in the remaining 25 urban centres the Government has deemed priority areas to receive world-class broadband, so we obviously have a recipe that is of appeal.

“As the Crown’s chosen partner for urban deployment of fibre we remain confident and committed to the delivery of a seamless, coordinated national fibre network.”

Mr Baker says the group will be looking to partner with like-minded access providers to support rural solutions that fit with the NZRFG philosophy of taking a world-class communications based utility build to all New Zealanders.

“We’ve said for quite some time now that we want to deliver an economic and social step change to urban and rural New Zealanders that is based on equivalence and we still believe that is achievable. We also firmly believe we can, and will, play a part in achieving that in rural New Zealand.

“The fact so many of our members have extensive electricity lines and fibre networks throughout regional New Zealand suggests it is common sense to have those implementing urban fibre builds do similarly in rural New Zealand – simply by extending those networks on existing infrastructure where the local knowledge of topography and communities is so thorough.”

The NZRFG’s priority throughout the RBI process was to ensure the fixed fibre solution was paramount, says Mr Baker.

He believes partners for mobile and wireless solutions can be implemented as the core build takes shape – particularly if the RBI is to remain truly open-access.

ENDS

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