Landcorp has decided that instead of waiting for the Government to roll out broadband to rural areas, it will have all its farms connected by the end of this year.
Getting fast internet access to its 122 farms is too important to wait, Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly told agri-business leaders at the Fieldays yesterday.
"By the end of the year every one of those farms will have commercial grade broadband," he said.
"The quicker the better in my opinion."
Only about one-fifth of rural homes and businesses currently have broadband of 5Mbps, according to the Ministry of Economic Development.
The Government's rural broadband initiative aims to deliver broadband at speeds of at least 5Mbps to 86 per cent of rural homes and businesses. The job is being undertaken by Chorus and Vodafone, with a roll-out period of five years.
Kelly told leaders that New Zealand's priority should be spending in the rural areas to stimulate the economy and give children there the same internet access as those in the city .
"Broadband is helping us now to staff our distant farms, it's helping our kids get onto Google and helping in their education.
"Our kids living in Auckland and Wellington just get on the computer every night and get on Facebook, and so on, and I think the oldies like underestimate that."
The need for the Government to be aware of the spending split was echoed by Ian Proudfoot, KPMG head of Agribusiness for New Zealand and the Asia Pacific.
"Spending in the rural areas generates productivity, returns and economic benefits more quickly," he said.
"If the 1.5 billion broadband initiative is all about driving productivity in New Zealand, we need to be spending the rural component first and then worrying about the cities."
So far, about 85 per cent of Landcorp farms are currently connected with a high speed solution, Kelly said. The remaining farms are connected via other technologies such as satellite and ADSL connections.
Landcorp has an established partnership with Araneo Wireless, who will be leading the roll out, Kelly said.
In instances where Araneo does not yet have the ability to provide high speed solutions in particular geographical regions, other providers such as Rivernet will provide high speed connection solutions
The average installation cost per connection is $2,200, meaning the overall cost will be $270,000.
Kelly said Landcorp was now starting to talk with owners of farms near its own about also getting them hooked up to broadband.
"There's a bit of an industry-good spill-over as well," he said.
Landcorp, a State-owned Enterprise, owns or leases about 376,000 hectares of land.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter said the Government was committed to improving broadband access, with the immediate focus on rural schools, hospitals and medical centres.
"It's absolutely critical. It's the highway of connectivity in the future and we accept that."By Ben Chapman-Smith Email Ben