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Joint Telecom and Vodafone bid for rural broadband Provision

NZRGPN PRESS RELEASE December 3 2010

NZRGPN applauds joint Telecom and Vodafone bid for rural broadband provision

A joint proposal by Telecom and Vodafone to provide enhanced broadband services to rural communities has the potential to yield huge benefits for patients, communities and general practitioners and their families, says Kirsty Murrell-McMillan, chairperson of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network.

“I commend the big players for coming together to optimize broadband provision to rural communities, which will offer many advantages to those living and practising in rural and remote New Zealand.”

Ms Murrell-McMillan says advantages include access to e-referrals, e-prescribing, on-line patient management, connectivity to secondary care, access to emergency advice and peer support, and access to educational resources and support for families of rural general practitioners.

“Rural teams will be able to attract doctors to rural communities. It won’t matter so much if it’s a remote location because practitioners, their spouses and children can go online for work, education or social resources. Better broadband is another hope for enticing practitioners to rural communities.
Isolation is a big disincentive for attracting doctors to work rurally, however better, faster Internet access will help to turn that situation around, says Ms Murrell-McMillan.

“Better broadband will fix some of the issues created by communication dead spots where practitioners called to a car crash on a rural road can’t connect with emergency services.
“That will make attending emergencies far less worrisome for GPs and nurses.”

Self-managed care on-line and appointment reminders for patients via texting and the opportunity for doctors to work over distance between regions and countries are other spin-offs offered through enhanced broadband, says Ms Murrell-McMillan.

“At one stage we could only talk about copper technology and in less than 12 months this has developed. It is very good news for rural communities.”

Last month Telecom and Vodafone submitted a joint response to the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), in which they will combine their resources to build new, open access network infrastructure for the provision of broadband in rural areas using a range of technologies. The RBI seeks to provide fibre to 97 percent of rural schools and a minimum 5Mbps broadband service to 80 percent of rural households within six years. It also aims to provide priority users with access to fibre-based broadband services.

Telecom will be responsible for building fibre to schools and hospitals, cell sites and rural exchanges and sites.

Vodafone will be responsible for the design and build of open access tower infrastructure that Vodafone and Telecom XT will co-locate their mobile services on, as indeed could any other wireless service provider who wishes to do so.

The proposal will extend Telecom’s existing fibre infrastructure to key rural sites, including schools and hospitals, while an expanded Vodafone wireless infrastructure will use this fibre to deliver high speed broadband services wirelessly. It will bring rural broadband users greater choice in terms of providers and technologies, both fixed and wireless. The proposal extends Telecom’s fast broadband (10Mbps+) rollout to 92 percent of the country.

ENDS

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