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Subsidised Broadband To Help Bridge The Digital Divide For New Zealanders

Spark is set to relaunch its subsidised broadband service to help bridge the digital divide in New Zealand by providing internet access to those who currently go without.

The new-and-improved service – Skinny Jump – is not-for-profit and the result of collaboration between Spark, the Spark Foundation, Skinny and a network of community organisations around New Zealand.

Skinny Jump will officially launch on Wednesday March 25, however due to the current situation with COVID-19, which has seen many Kiwis being asked to self-isolate at home, Spark is accelerating its rollout plans as quickly as possible.

According to 2018 census data from Statistics New Zealand, 211,000 homes around the country still don’t have access to broadband and research from Internet NZ indicates that cost is the biggest barrier to this access. As more businesses, curriculums and essential services shift to digital, Kiwis without an internet connection cannot easily participate and contribute to society – making it difficult to do anything from homework and banking to booking doctors’ appointments and looking for work, and compounding inequality within the community.

Jolie Hodson, Spark CEO, says that as New Zealand transitions to more digital ways of living and working Skinny Jump is about ensuring no one is left behind.

“At Spark we want to help all New Zealanders win big in a digital world, but we can’t deliver on that purpose if a significant majority of kiwis can’t afford to get online. We launched Jump in 2016 for families with school-aged children and we now have nearly 5,000 households, or close to 9,000 school kids, using the service.

“We want to increase this significantly by making the service even more affordable and extending the eligibility criteria beyond families to other New Zealanders who are also experiencing digital exclusion. Affordable broadband isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to fix the digital divide on its own – but it is an important part of the mix.”

The Skinny Jump service is available through a community partner network, which is overseen by Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) and includes 130 contact points nationwide spanning community libraries and budgeting services, amongst others.

Skinny Jump will be available to a wider range of people who find that cost is a barrier to having a broadband connection at home – including families with school aged children, job seekers, senior citizens, refugees, new migrants, people with disabilities and people living in social housing.

The service is provided for $5 for 30GB of data (with the option to renew up to five times a month) and comes with a free Wireless Broadband modem. It is entirely prepaid, so there are no long-term contracts or credit checks needed, and all it takes to get set up is registering through a partner and plugging in the modem.

Shona Te Huki from Taranaki has been on the Jump programme since 2018 and says being able to afford internet access at home has made a huge difference to her children’s education.

"Jump has been absolutely life-changing for me and my whānau. We live rurally and my kids are smart but without access to the internet at home I was worried that they would fall behind in their schoolwork. Once we got our modem, we were able to plug in and get online straight away. It's been such a fantastic tool for my whānau that I promote it to other Kiwis, just like us, who might be struggling to afford an internet connection at home. No one should miss out on having access to the internet because of the cost.”

Sue Kini, Stepping UP Programme Manager at Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) says she is thrilled that Skinny Jump will now be offered to more New Zealanders than ever before.

“Digital equity is a critical issue in New Zealand, but something most of us take for granted. If you can’t get online, then you’re already 10 steps behind the person who can – so it’s exciting to see Skinny Jump being offered to more groups of Kiwis who are currently missing out. We’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible difference that Jump has made to the lives of the school-aged families who’ve been on the programme and can’t wait to see the impact it will have on the lives of so many other New Zealanders.”

Note to the editor:

  • Skinny Jump costs $5 for 30GB of data
  • Customers have the option to purchase up to five plans a month (that’s a maximum of $25 for 150GB)
  • Skinny Jump includes a free Wireless Broadband modem preloaded with 30GB data.
  • Skinny Jump is offered through a national network of partners.
  • Skinny Jump will officially launch on Wednesday March 25

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