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Major broadband projects under threat

Clare Curran

MP for Dunedin South

Spokesperson for Communication and IT

17 December 2008 Media Statement
Major broadband projects under threat following National Government inaction

Dithering by new Communications Minister Steven Joyce could lead to a pullback of investment by private sector service providers in broadband infrastructure, supposedly the flagship of national’s turbo charge economic growth plan, Labour spokesperson for communications and IT Clare Curran said today.

Dozens of innovative broadband projects poised to deliver fast broadband services to communities across New Zealand could be mothballed due to the national Government’s inaction of fast tracking its ultra fast broadband policy.

“There are worrying signs emerging from the communications industry that service providers will pull back from investing in this important growth industry if it doesn’t see any action, if there no clearly articulated plans and if it sees long delays before a national plan is brought into effect,” she said.

Currently there are 36 proposals for broadband projects in communities across New Zealand worth several hundred million dollars with funding applications due to be approved in February.

These projects were to be funded through the Broadband Investment Fund which was set up this year to promote industry investment in New Zealand’s broadband infrastructure. It provides a pool of contestable funding for a major plan to increase New Zealander’s access to high speed internet.

They span the country from Hobsonville, Coromandel Peninsula, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Hawkes Bay, to Tasman, Marlborough, Nelson, North Canterbury and Otago.

They include fibre to the home projects for new communities, existing cities and rural areas. Ms Curran said the projects and the proposed method of delivery have received widespread support and encouragement from the wider communications technology industry.

“This week, new Communications Minister Steven Joyce said he “was having a look at the BIF” and will comment at the end of January on what the future, if any will be for it.

“Given that broadband policy was the key plank in the National Party’s campaign plan to develop infrastructure to drive economic growth, don’t you think that National would have had a well developed plan for broadband.

“As hard as I’ve looked I can’t find any detail. All I’ve heard is a lot of concern from stakeholders that delays will affect confidence in the sector and a slowdown in investment.

“Well I’ve got three questions for the new Minister which need answers now:

“What are the government plans to deliver on its election promises on rolling out ultrafast broadband to 75% of households. How advanced are the government plans to deliver its election promises?

“And is the Minister aware of wide industry concern that long delays in developing a broadband plan will undermine and severely impact on the important drivers for economic growth,” said Ms Curran.


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