Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Zealand - Rural farmers are unimpressed by Govt's broadband initiative

[tvnz] The government's extension of the tender deadline for its $300 million rural broadband initiative so that regional infrastructure companies can partner with national ones on bids has failed to impress farmers who want speeds 10 times faster than currently proposed.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday a significant number of high quality proposals had been received but he wants national bidders, so has extended the bidding until November 12.

"With this approach I am confident we will achieve our target of 80% of rural households and businesses having access to broadband services of 5Mbps or better and the remaining 20% on speeds of 1Mbps within the six-year period," Joyce said.

(Megabits or millions of bits per second is a measure of bandwidth - the average connecton speed in NZ is reported to be 2.9Mbps, with 7.7 percent of connections faster than 5Mbps).

But lobbyist Federated Farmers said the question now before rural New Zealand was: "Are you happy with a second rate service?"

Federated Farmers telecommunications spokesman Donald Aubrey said the current approach will mean 860,000 people in "rural" New Zealand may eventually have the broadband speeds that consumers in Wellington now have, while 215,000 "rural" Kiwis may end up with just a fifth of that speed.

"The 1.07 million Kiwis classed as 'rural' don't wish to have what Wellington had, but to exceed current Government aspirations by seeking what Wellington will have," Aubrey said. "The Government is not ambitious enough".

Ultrafast broadband from the farm was needed to give rural community the same social, education and medical advances that would be available in the cities.

"Broadband enhances social connectedness while crushing the tyranny of distance," said Aubrey.

Agriculture, tourism and other services in rural areas produced two-thirds of export revenues, and providing adequate communications in those areas could revolutionise the supply chain and close the gap between farmers and consumers in shops.

"Broadband is the next big enabler for enhanced productivity and production," said Mr Aubrey, who said the proposed speeds of up to 5Mbps did not allow for streaming 3D images and telemetry, such as to and from veterinary surgeons.

"Sony Pictures recently estimated speeds of 50-55Mbps were required for 3D with full high definition".

"These speeds are possible locally ... the government needs to take a longer term view," said Aubrey.

"One million Kiwis want to enjoy the same services and opportunities as our urban mates."

Broadband initiative fails to impress farmers

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