Chorus has formally completed its $40 million-plus Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network in Rotorua city.
Almost 27,000 households, businesses, schools and health facilities now have access to fibre in the city. And while UFB uptake to date is only 22.6 per cent, that is above the national average.
Chorus says Rotorua's overall broadband consumption has soared since the start of last year.
The average Rotorua household used 178GB last month, compared to the national average of 112GB. However, the national average was more than double the amount used at the start of 2015, an increase driven by the surge in demand for streaming services such as Netflix, said Chorus.
Communications Minister Amy Adams said 18 of the 33 towns and cities included under UFB phase one were now complete.
"Building UFB across the country is an enormous undertaking," said Ms Adams, who attended a ceremony at Rotorua Canopy Tours with Rotorua MP Todd McClay and Chorus officials today.
"It's the biggest infrastructure project in New Zealand's history, and it's being delivered on budget and ahead of schedule."
With the network now complete, Ms Adams said she expected that every month would see UFB penetration increase markedly.
"Schools, homes and businesses are rapidly discovering the benefits of faster broadband. New Zealanders tell us repeatedly that once they have fibre, they wonder how they ever lived without it."
Mr McClay said completing the build was very important for the city.
"We're a modern city with a population that's growing," he said.
"We're attracting investment and that means we need good infrastructure, and increasingly access to the Internet is part of that. It's really pleasing to see we're ahead of the national average for uptake. But there's still scope for more businesses and homes to hook on to UFB and its many benefits."
However, he noted there were still challenging areas in and around Rotorua that were not covered.
"The government is looking at ways we can roll out the rural broadband and other initiatives to make sure there is broader coverage," he said. "The city is finished, but we recognise there are still communities that don't have the access they need."
Rotorua Canopy Tours owner James Fitzgerald said his business was chosen as the venue for celebrating the completion date by Chorus because of the way it had used UFB since becoming connected a couple of years ago.
"Chorus recognised we were doing some pretty cool stuff here," he said.
"I didn't realise, till they came to us asking if we could be used as a case study, how much we now take our high-speed internet for granted," he said.
As part of its service, the company takes photos of customers while they are on a zipline.
The photos are then uploaded to the cloud and customers are able to download them.
"We are a high-end business so the photos we offer clients are a value-add, but before UFB it could take about four hours to upload 200 photos," said Mr Fitzgerald.
"While photos were uploading we couldn't take reservations at the same time, and staff couldn't work on their laptops. Now with UFB it takes 10 minutes to upload 1000 photos which means customers get their photos quickly and are able to send them out on social media while the adrenaline is still pumping, and that creates a whole load of marketing for us."
Rotorua Canopy Tours also uses its UFB to help run standard business functions as well as online booking check-ins.
"The irony is we provide a customer experience where we take people away from technology, but without new technology we couldn't run it. It's revolutionised the way we do things."
Chorus Executive member Vanessa Oakley said UFB had the potential to transform the economy, communities, and the way New Zealand connected to the rest of the world.
"We're really looking forward to seeing how the Rotorua community can take advantage of having world-class connectivity right on their door step."
Rotorua UFB at a glance
• Rotorua is the 18th town completed and the largest buildout to date
• Almost 27,000 households and businesses are now able to connect
• 31 schools and hospitals are able to connect
• Uptake is 22.6 per cent, or 6,047 connected