As the Government's ultra-fast broadband rollout grinds along, there are concerns that not enough focus is being put on how it can be used to boost the economy.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen kicked off a session on UFB at the NetHui internet conference yesterday by asking attendees how they planned to take advantage of the infrastructure.
"If all we do with this thing is watch TV and get our email a bit quicker ... I think we will have missed an opportunity to really have a step-change in terms of New Zealand's economic future," Brislen said.
The Government has teamed up with private infrastructure partners for its UFB project, which will see fibre lines rolled out across 75 per cent of New Zealand.
The initiative will offer download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second by the end of 2019.
This is over 20 times faster than the average speeds enjoyed by urban internet users in 2010.
The project comes at a $1.5 billion cost to the taxpayer.
While online TV and movie content has been identified as a primary driver of uptake on fibre networks, entrepreneur Glen Barnes said we needed to move past this.
"I think the discussion 'we want our content on our Apple TVs' ... has gone on for years and it's kind of boring. We know we want it [the content] so let's just get over it."
Barnes suggested that the fibre being rolled out would allow businesses to collaborate a lot easier.
He said an architect could have an online set of plans to share with the council, engineers and everybody working on those plans.
"They can get marked up in real time online.
"Once the building's built you will be able to control all your lighting, all of the power [online] - that's the sort of stuff that this faster broadband is going to allow," Barnes said.
TelstraClear's Andrew Cushen suggested that many of the uses for UFB would not appear until the technology was already in play.
However, he challenged those at the Auckland conference to find a use for faster broadband that would justify the money the Government is pouring into it.
"It was people in a room such as this that was very loud-mouthed when this idea came up of investing in UFB, right? I also suspect it's people like you in this room that now have to find a reason in which we can justify that investment and I haven't heard too many good justifications for that type of investment so far today," he said.
FX Networks' Jamie Baddeley said attention needed to shift to the upload side of things.
"If we want to make UFB a success, then we need to start exporting stuff and then we can start importing dollars," Baddeley said.
If internet providers stopped rating (charging) for uploading data overseas, he said, people might then start generating wealth.