400,000 rural Kiwis benefit from NZRFG broadband

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2010 12:52 PM
400,000 rural Kiwis to benefit from NZRFG broadband plan
Almost 400,000 rural homeowners not currently served by broadband could benefit from a New Zealand Regional Fibre Group led ‘fibre to the farm’ initiative.
The NZRFG’s proposed national solution for connecting rural New Zealand with world class broadband speeds - through a mix of fixed fibre, mobile and wireless - will pay dividends for Kiwis living in traditional rural districts, says CEO Vaughan Baker.
As the NZRFG prepares to submit a national tender for the government’s $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), members are ploughing ahead with fibre connections to farms and rural homeowners – something they will do much faster if successful in securing the Ministry of Economic Development’s rural funding.
Ultimately the group, which has advocated the need for much improved rural connectivity levels, would like to unleash more remote areas of the rural community with up to gigabit speeds and beyond - putting them on a level playing field with their urban cousins.
Under its urban fibre network builds the Government requires minimum fibre network speeds of 100Mbit/s to rural schools and the NZRFG wants rural New Zealanders to experience similar speeds wherever possible.
In fact, some members are making that happen now.
The South Island’s Electricity Ashburton already has farmers on its fibre network, while Pukekohe based Counties Power is close to linking its first rural customers.
Those already connected say they won’t go back to copper-based broadband and the NZRFG member companies building the fibre networks plan to continue connecting rural homes and businesses.
Electricity Ashburton General Manager Gordon Guthrie says the decision to build a fibre network was made in 2008. 330km of fibre and over $8 million later, the dairy farmers on the company’s initial fibre trial will soon be able to receive symmetrical network speeds of 100Mbit/s to their cowsheds and homes.
Even at the current 10Mbit/s trial speed they are becoming the region’s biggest advocates for fibre.
“We are already seeing in the farmers using our fibre, steady improvements in their business models and these efficiencies will continue to grow,” says Mr Guthrie. “To have fibre throughout our region would be a very big boost to the area.”
Counties Power boss Neil Simmonds says he has a steady stream of farmers (from areas like Ararimu, Puni and Mauku) requesting fibre connectivity and doesn’t rule out the possibility of some trenching in the fibre themselves.
“Counties Power has completed a rural fibre design for the Franklin District and hopefully NZRFG success in the urban and rural broadband initiatives will fast-track the connection process,” says Mr Simmonds.
“Meantime we are working with other parties to help people take advantage of our fibre backbone.”

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