Slow connection angers farmer

By Lawrence Gullery

Tutira's Sue Maxwell knows that operating a successful farming business requires as much effort indoors on a computer as it does outdoors managing stock these days.

But living in a remote area north of Napier doesn't offer up many choices when it comes to connecting to the internet.

"We first had dial-up internet but that ran at about 11kb (per second)," she said. "So we were forced to go to satellite internet but that was pathetic. It cost about $79 plus GST a month, with just a 2mb download speed, 1mb upload and 2gb data cap."

A cheaper package for $49 was on offer but at reduced speeds.

"We don't play games on the internet or anything like that. It's strictly emails and looking at a few websites. But more and more of the documents being sent to us are coming via email for our business and so it's now something we can't do without."

Mrs Maxwell, a Hastings District Council rural community board member, lives on Heays Access Rd, about 16km north of the Tutira shop, which is on the corner of State Highway 2 and Matahorua Rd.

The district is among a number of rural areas not forecast to be covered by the Government rural broadband initiative within the next 12 months and the issue was raised at the community board's meeting this week.

"I personally have been going to talk to private operators offering broadband in rural areas, like the one at Mt Erin. But we live in a gully and only have about six houses fully occupied, so we have to see whether it is worthwhile."

The community board unsuccessfully applied to the Vodafone community cell site scheme in 2011, which aimed to build at least two cell sites in areas outside the rural broadband initiative.

Mrs Maxwell said she'd consider whether it was worth applying to the Vodafone scheme again.

"We may wait to see what new technology develops, as things are changing all the time. At the end of the day we can't expect an ordinary family to pay 80 bucks a month just for the privilege of something that other people [in urban areas] enjoy."

In a report to the board, council staffers Cheryl Paget and Craig Thew said Vodafone was installing four new towers in Hawke's Bay, including three in the Hastings district and one in Cental Hawke's Bay, as well as upgrading 17 existing cell sites to increase wireless broadband coverage.

The Hastings towers would be installed at Patoka, Sherenden and Maraekakaho north during the 2015/16 year, when it was hoped new technology may benefit rural communities.

"This has the potential to provide better coverage than currently forecast. In particular, the potential to use the spectrum (700mhz) historically used by broadcast TV. This spectrum is able to perform better in hilly terrain and over longer distances," they said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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