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High speed internet rolls out into more regions


High speed internet rolls out into more regions


New Zealand wide coverage of high speed internet is almost complete with Project Probe moving into three more regions, Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton, Education Minister Trevor Mallard, and Information Technology Minister Paul Swain announced today.

Project PROBE (Provincial Broadband Extension) is a multi-million dollar government investment to boost education and economic development through the delivery of broadband technology to regional New Zealand.

The ministers today named Telecom as the preferred supplier for the West Coast and Manawatu/Wanganui and lines company Counties Power as preferred supplier in Auckland. Preferred suppliers for the final Project PROBE region Otago and the satellite option, for very remote schools and communities, are expected before the end of the year.

"Today's announcement is a significant milestone towards our goal of taking high speed internet to every New Zealand region by the end of 2004," the ministers said.

“Our government sees Project PROBE as a critical infrastructure investment. It’s an important part of our strategy to grow a more innovative economy.

“We are committed to ensuring students and families, businesspeople and employees have the same opportunities in education and in economic development, regardless of where they live and work.”

Trevor Mallard announced the rollout to the three regions at an education forum in Palmerston North today.

He said information and communications technology (ICT) was an essential skill for students and critical for life in the 21st century skills.

"Through Project PROBE, students in remote rural communities will have the same access to information as students in major urban areas. They will have the same opportunity to become online learners, through audio and video conferencing, digital resources, discussion forums and online classrooms that can link teachers and students across the country. "This rollout of broadband to the Manawatu/Wanganui, West Coast and regional Auckland will benefit a further 184 schools with nearly 24,000 students between them.

"The government is also keen to see broadband extended as far beyond schools as possible and funding assistance from businesses, regions, community trusts and local government is helping this process. Close liaison with regional groups is an important part of PROBE."

Jim Anderton said the provision of affordable and reliable broadband services was opening up exciting business opportunities in rural communities.

“I am particularly pleased to see Counties Power's selection in Auckland as this is a first rate example of our commitment to supporting local businesses to grow and develop in their own communities.

"The government is keen to break down the digital divide between metropolitan and rural communities as this is an important part of our strategy to produce a more innovative and successful economy where all communities have the opportunity to play their part," Jim Anderton said.

Paul Swain said Project PROBE is a prime example of government working in partnership with local communities to support the growth of technical and business skills and build stronger industry networks through improved broadband access and technology.

"ICT, coupled with biotechnology and creative industries, is vital to an economically successful New Zealand and central to our government's Growth and Innovation Framework."

The health and social welfare sectors in rural communities will also benefit from this investment.

Today's announcement follows on from the first announcement in July this year of the broadband rollout to the Waikato, Wellington and Taranaki regions, the October announcements of broadband to Nelson/Marlborough, Canterbury, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne/Hawkes Bay regions and the launch by Prime Minister Helen Clark on 10 October of the Southland Project PROBE rollout.

Questions and answers are attached. For more information see http://www.probe.govt.nz

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