The Government has announced that an extra $270 million will be spent on improving rural broadband and bridging cellphone blackspots in regions throughout New Zealand.
$130m will be spent on expanding fibre-optic ultrafast broadband (UFB) to another 60,000 homes and businesses in 190 towns.
$140m will extend the number of subsidised wireless broadband services to another 74,000 homes and businesses, as well as deliver mobile coverage to approximately 1000km of rural highways and more than 100 tourist areas.
Once completed, UFB will be available to 87 per cent of the population and 99 per cent will have access to high speed internet by 2022.
“The benefits of extra spending to expand connectivity for rural communities are immense. The services will lead to greater economic growth and better access to online education, social services and health information,” says Fiona Gower, National President of Rural Women New Zealand.
“Rural residents will feel safer with better mobile coverage, and the connectivity will reduce the feeling of isolation for those living in remote areas.”
In the past few years, RWNZ has been involved in discussions with nationwide broadband and mobile service providers and government agencies to ensure that rural connectivity remains a top priority. RWNZ is a member of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) and has provided feedback to Crown Fibre Holdings on the social and economic benefits of improved rural connectivity.
RWNZ policy work includes submissions on the RBI 2 and mobile black spots programmes, the draft Digital Technologies education curriculum and the Review of the Telecommunications Act 2001.
While the majority of the roll out contract has been won by Chorus and a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees; smaller wireless internet providers (WISPs) will receive work worth $13m.
We spoke to Bridget Canning who is the operator of Wizwireless which is a provider of high speed wireless internet broadband for the Wairarapa region.
“WIZwireless supports the Government in addressing the need to improve the broadband services that remote kiwis rely on and we will provide more and better services throughout the Wairarapa Region,” says Bridget.
“WIZwireless is delighted that the Government has recognised the vital role that Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) already play in getting reliable and effective broadband to many rural and remote New Zealanders.
“WISPs all over New Zealand are going to deliver fast, modern broadband, that will meet or exceed the Government’s target rural broadband specifications by using the latest fixed wireless technologies, this is how tens of thousands of rural kiwi’s already get their broadband internet connections including WIZwireless.
“WISP’s have proven themselves to be reliable, robust and resilient, during last year’s Kaikoura earthquake Amuri Net was the only telecommunications network to come through intact and provided the community with vital connectivity in the days following the earthquake.
“This additional investment by the Government will allow us, the WISPs to upgrade our existing networks and build new sites that will expand our coverage to even more rural and remote internet users who are desperately in need of modern broadband connectivity.
“Individual WISPs who are participating in RBI2 will release their own plans for their local RBI2 programs, we are local businesses who know our communities very well and we are excited by the opportunities that will be created by improved broadband in our communities.”
Bridget received a Certificate of Special Recognition as an Enterprising Rural Woman, at the 2015 RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Awards for her business success to date.