Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rural broadband expansion contracts signed

Around 30,000 rural homes and communities will soon have access to faster, improved connectivity with an expansion of the Rural Capacity Upgrade programme.

Rural Communities Minister, Damien O’Connor and Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark said the new 21 contracts signed by Crown Infrastructure partners will accelerate upgrades to towers and broadband connections in areas with poor coverage.

“This round of the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see many existing towers upgraded and new connections established in rural areas experiencing poor performance,” Dr Clark said.

“Some areas that will benefit from these improvements include, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatū-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and Waikato. However, the programme is by no means limited to these areas.

“This will significantly improve current homes and businesses and boost economic productivity of those with a slow unreliable and sometimes unusable connection,” he said.

Minister Clark said the Government was committed to improving rural connectivity and were on track to see 99.8% of New Zealanders receive access to improved broadband as a result of the Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out, Rural Broadband Initiative, Marae Digital Connectivity programme, and the Mobile Black Spot Fund by the end of 2023.

“This investment in rural connectivity sits alongside Land Information NZ’s roll out of our Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) service. SouthPAN will greatly improve the availability and accuracy of positioning, taking it from 5-10 metres to as little as 10 centimetres across the country,” he said.

Minister O’Connor said the move will boost rural productivity through precision agriculture and horticulture, fenceless farming, and improve the safety of search rescue in the back country.

Governments, alongside private sector contributions, have invested more than $2.5 billion into improving digital connectivity to date, and we proudly rank high amongst the highest in the world when it comes to access and uptake of digital connectivity, he said.

Today, the Government has also released ‘Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa’, which sets out the high-level connectivity vision for New Zealand over the next decade. This includes the goal that all New Zealanders have access to high-speed connectivity networks, and that we are in the top 20% of nations in respect to international connectivity measures (such as those of the OECD).

“With more and more businesses online, more people working from home, and access to many health services. The opportunity for greater economic growth is there, and should be embraced – but we need to make sure they’re there for everybody,” Minister Clark said. 

“As Government supports farmers to grow our exports, reduce emissions, and maintain our international competitive edge into the future – making sure farms are hooked up with reliable connectivity is crucial.

“We’ve always been world-leading when it comes to farming innovation. It was a New Zealander that invented the electric fence, and Kiwis are leading the charge on what comes next. As digital technologies continue to evolve, we need to ensure, our farmers and their farming practices are well supported to evolve alongside it,” he said.

Today’s announcements also follow recent news that the Government’s Remote Users Scheme is now open for applications. This programme will target the country’s most remote households and communities, providing some with broadband and mobile connectivity for the first time.

The first phase of the Remote Users Scheme will provide broadband internet services to an area by extending existing networks. Those still without coverage after this has been done, may be eligible to receive a one-off grant of up to $2,000 towards set up and installation costs of a suitable broadband solution.

You can access the Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa document on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.

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