5 November 2009
1,075,000 New Zealanders want rural broadband ‘fair go’
Federated Farmers is challenging the Government to show more ambition on the rollout of broadband to one quarter of New Zealand. The Federation believes rural broadband is necessary for rural New Zealand’s economic competitiveness and social connectivity.
“The next few months will determine what happens for decades to come, so we’ve got to get this right for urban and rural alike,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers spokesperson on telecommunications.
“The Government has $1.5 billion to rollout broadband to three-quarters of New Zealand. That’ll be the 75 percent who already have access to broadband, leaving 1,075,000 New Zealanders with just $48 million of direct Government funding.
“While the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative now proposes an additional $252 million over the next six years from an industry levy, this investment level is still not high enough.
“Put simply, 1,075,000 New Zealanders are being short-changed by $200 million. This much is needed to make rural broadband funding equal to that promised for urban New Zealand.
“Government funding must be targeted at where the market has failed. That’s not in our cities and larger towns but in the rural 25 percent of New Zealand.
“Government is not being ambitious or visionary enough about the prospect of rural broadband. There’s a mass of opportunities to take the rural and national economy forward in a 100 year solution. There are applications to come we can only dream of today.
“Rural New Zealand produces over 64 percent of our export dollars and our greatest inventors like Sir Bill Hamilton and Lord Rutherford share a rural background. Broadband isn’t the ability to download an MP3 track in a few seconds but ought to be about gains in productivity, innovation and community.
“It’s vital rural New Zealand has access to ultra fast broadband enabled education, health and social solutions. We don’t want a two-tier society and need to close-up perceived ‘rural isolation’ so that people from non-farming backgrounds view rural industries as a valid career choice.
“To that end, we’ve urged the Government to either make the $1.5 billion urban broadband proportionate to all New Zealanders or increase the proposed Telecommunication Development Levy.
“Increasing the proposed levy from $50 million per annum to at least what is raised by the current Telecommunications Service Obligation raises, for example, $80 million a year.
“Over six years that increases the total amount available for rural broadband to $480 million and close to the magic $500 million mark each quarter of urban New Zealand will get.
“Federated Farmers has been working for some months with Government to develop and demonstrate practical, innovative solutions. Our focus is on making a significant step change in rural New Zealand over a relatively short timeframe.
“We’re very keen to continue working with the Government and to use the brawn and brains of 1,075,000 New Zealanders to get the best solutions for generations to come.
“Federated Farmers knows broadband isn’t straightforward but our country wasn’t built by people who said ‘can’t’ but by those who said ‘can’. Economic transformation won’t be achieved by acceptable measures but by extraordinary leadership that sets our country on a path back up the OECD ladder,” Mr Aubrey concluded.
The Federated Farmers submissions can be accessed by clicking the following links:
· Rural broadband initiative
· TSO reform and funding telecommunications development