Rural schools may miss out on broadband

By Hamish Fletcher

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Nearly 500 rural New Zealand schools may not receive a fibre internet connection under the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme or rural broadband initiative (RBI).

One of the selling points of the $285 million RBI was its promise to hook up 700 rural schools to high speed internet.

However, according to data from telecommunications researcher Jonathan Brewer, 470 schools - servicing 108,000 students - will not be covered by the programme.

Communications Minister Steven Joyce confirmed that some schools that would not get a fibre connection in the broadband schemes.

However, figures from the Minister suggested the number of schools that would miss out is closer to 300.

"There will be some schools in what is known as Zone Three that will be contracted to receive Fibre connections separately from the UFB and RBI contracts, because they don't fit with in the relevant UFB and RBI geographic footprints. That contract [to connect them] won't be set until after the final fibre footprint of the UFB areas is known," Joyce said.

Telecommunications User Association (TUANZ) chief executive Paul Brislen said he was under the impression that all schools were a priority.

"We need to make schools a priority, both the UFB and RBI were predicated on high speed broadband to schools and for me that's non-negotiable, we have to have decent connectivity to our schools - if no-where else," he said.

TUANZ, InternetNZ and Federated Farmers have written to Joyce and Education Minister Anne Tolley requesting more information on which schools would miss out.

The group called the situation "inequitable and an anomalous public policy outcome".

"The analysis has also shown that about 90% of the schools in Zone 3 are within 2 kilometres of existing Chorus fibre. We therefore believe that most of the 470 schools can be provided fibre connections at a modest cost quickly."

In the RBI:

* Telecom and Vodafone will lay 3,100 kilometres of fibre internet cables and build 154 new cell towers

* 86 per cent of rural houses and businesses having access to broadband peak speeds of at least 5 megabits per second (compared with 20 per cent at present).

* The extension of mobile coverage by 6,200 square kilometres to 125,700 square kilometres of rural New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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