By ADAM GIFFORD

Businesses in Pukekohe will now be able to get high-speed fibre access to the internet cheaper than businesses in Ponsonby.

Counties Power has signed up Iconz, New Zealand's oldest commercial internet services provider, as the first retail partner for its Wired Country broadband network.

Other ISPs are expected to soon come on board under Wired Country's open access wholesale model, which is based on power industry models.

Iconz general manager Sean Weekes said the ISP was talking to existing customers and other businesses in Pukekohe and should have test sites running by next week.

Pricing will start at about $50 a month for always-on access to the internet and unlimited downloads, compared with the "hundreds" Iconz must charge its central Auckland customers, which it reaches through fibre belonging to Telecom, TelstraClear or Tangent.

Customers will be able to get connectivity of between 128Kbps and 100Mbps.

Weekes said the price at which Counties Power was making its network available to retailers would also challenge Telecom's DSL (digital subscriber line) services like Jetstream.

The Wired Country network will eventually cover most of Franklin and Papakura with fibre optic cable, with remote areas reached through wireless.

Wired Country provide the Wireless Packets modems users need to access the network.

Counties Power chief executive Neil Simmonds said the lines company did not intend to lose money on Wired Country, nor did it expect to make a lot.

"Our aim is to make the community successful, which is how we can protect our electricity revenues," Simmonds said. "Otherwise business customers could find it better to relocate to Manukau or Auckland city."

He said now Iconz had signed up to the service agreement, other providers should follow suit.