Rural broadband a turn off

By Kiri Gillespie of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Only 500 metres from Tauranga's main state highway, Whakamarama resident Michelle Croxon has already waited 149 days for Broadband. Photo / John Borren
Only 500 metres from Tauranga's main state highway, Whakamarama resident Michelle Croxon has already waited 149 days for Broadband. Photo / John Borren

A Tauranga woman has been told she could be waiting 280 days for the broadband internet she will use to talk to her husband who works on an oil rig.

Michelle and Mitch Croxon moved to Whakamarama from New Plymouth in November.

Mr Croxon still works in New Plymouth so the couple rely on high-speed internet to keep connected.

But it'll be another nine months at least before the Croxons are hooked up to broadband - even though they live about 500m from a state highway.

This week the Government announced a scheme to provide ultra-fast broadband to rural hospitals, health centres, schools and libraries. None are in the Western Bay of Plenty.

"I don't begrudge it going to health centres and schools and that," Mrs Croxon said.

"But all we have is dial-up and we have a little T Stick.

"But because of the rolling hills, being on dial-up is faster than the stick and it takes so long to do anything."

The couple live 500m from State Highway 2 and Mrs Croxon couldn't understand why she had experienced so much difficulty getting a broadband connection.

"That's the whole thing, I could understand if we were in a very isolated, remote place but we aren't," she said.

"We are 15km from Tauranga and with Tauranga being the size it is and for us, we are not far from the main road, it just seems so crazy."

Mrs Croxon said if she was lucky, positioned herself in the centre of her living area, faced north and it was sunny, she might get one bar of internet connection.

"It is so frustrating."

Management of rental properties and children's homework were also being affected.

The couple started as number 14 on a broadband waiting list and were told it should take no longer than six months to get connected. After waiting 149 days Mrs Croxon called her provider Slingshot and was told they had moved up to number 12.

"They said the most anyone had waited was 280 days."

Mrs Croxon does not blame Slingshot because "I've rung around and they are all the same".

Instead, Mrs Croxon said something should be done to ensure everyone in New Zealand could access broadband before the Government focused on upgraded existing broadband customers.

Neighbour David Riley said he and his wife had been waiting since October for broadband - and were still waiting.

"[Yesterday] morning I was told I was 13th on the list of 22 people in the area. In December I was 11th on the list," Mr Riley said.

"It would appear we are going backwards."

Mr Riley said his wife wanted to move her physio business to their home but was reluctant until they could access broadband.

"To try and be part of the 21st century without this is pretty difficult," Mr Riley said.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Amy Adams said the new scheme recognised the importance of rural areas. "It will dramatically improve broadband services for those communities, and it means that location does not need to be a barrier to receiving good, quality health care.

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