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Final rural broadband contracts agreed by year end

Hon Steven Joyce
Minister for Communications and Information Technology

10 August 2011

Final rural broadband contracts agreed by year end

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Steven Joyce, has today announced the release of two tender documents for the final Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) contracts.

The contracts will cover:

• 192 schools (predominantly in zone three).
• The 60 most remote schools for which a non-fibre, fast broadband solution is required.
• Integrated family healthcare centres in rural areas.
• Up to 82 libraries in rural communities.

“When fully implemented, the RBI will mean our rural communities have access to the best healthcare and education services anywhere – barriers of time and space will be almost completely removed.”

97.7 percent of New Zealand schools will be connected to ultra-fast broadband and the remaining 60 schools that are located in very remote places will have access to improved terrestrial or satellite wireless broadband services.

Mr Joyce says the 192 rural schools in the tender will receive the same services as their urban counterparts and wholesale prices for these connections will be comparable as well.

The government originally budgeted for a higher number of schools in this tender but a further 99 rural schools have since been added by agreement with Telecom under its existing RBI contract, within the budget cap.

“As a result of that saving, we will be able to connect all publicly-funded hospitals and integrated family health centres in rural towns to fibre as well. Use of this technology has the potential to transform healthcare in this country,” says Mr Joyce.

“The ability to exchange high-resolution images and real time video will make valuable health care services available to rural communities without the need to visit a hospital.”

“Fibre connections to places like Te Puia Springs Hospital will mean that specialist services can be delivered to remote residents from Gisborne or elsewhere in the country. This will save residents having to travel several hours by road to access health services and specialists can spend more time treating patients rather than driving to clinics”, says Mr Joyce.

As part of the Registration of Interest, the government will also connect as many public libraries in rural towns to ultra fast fibre as possible.

“The New Zealand economy depends on the rural sector, and the extension of ultra-fast broadband to rural community hubs like libraries will help keep our rural communities connected to the rest of the world”, said Mr Joyce.

The number of public libraries in rural towns to be connected under the RBI will be based on the remaining budget available after connecting schools and hospitals.

The second Registration of Interest is to connect the final 60 remote schools to vastly improve broadband using terrestrial wireless or satellite services.

“This tender process is designed to determine the best solution for each school. As a result, it is more than likely that contracts with several suppliers will be signed,” says Mr Joyce.

A key enhancement of the remote schools broadband policy is the desire to provide surrounding communities with better services. This could be achieved, for example, by providing a wireless broadband service from a hilltop near the school and potentially making the site available to provide improved mobile coverage.

“Contracts for the remote schools are expected to be entered into progressively over the coming months so that these 60 remote schools have access to the improved services by the start of the 2012 school year” says Mr Joyce.

ENDS

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