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New Zealand to Fund Rural Broadband Network Upgrades

The New Zealand government has committed to bettering broadband network connectivity in rural areas. The plan was announced by the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark who disclosed that NZD 47 million from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund will go towards The Rural Capacity Upgrade, the project conceptualised to boost internet connectivity all over the country.

It will see existing cell towers upgraded and new towers built in rural areas experiencing poor performance, as well as fibre, additional VDSL coverage and other wireless technology deployed in congested areas.

– David Clark, Minister, Digital Economy and Communications

The Rural Capacity Upgrade is a comprehensive plan. According to Clark, 47,000 rural households and businesses should experience faster internet speeds and better reception than they do right now by the end of 2024. Some might say it’s an ambitious plan given that New Zealand has a total population of over 5 million.

Clark emphasises how connectivity is essential during the COVID-19 crisis. As lockdowns and social distancing initiatives became the norm, the ability to reach out to other people has never been more pronounced. Indeed, the pandemic has shown everyone on the island nation how reliable the internet is critical to being able to work, learn and socialise from our homes. Lockdowns breed isolation which can magnify negative emotions.

The Minister also cited how connectivity was adversely affected during the pandemic. More often than not, it is the rural areas that suffer the most when it comes to connectivity. Having been through lockdowns, it’s clear some rural networks had real trouble adapting to the extra usage. In short, they lack the capacity needed to ensure connections were stable.

To ensure the work goes through efficiently and effectively, a total of 13 private sector contractors have been tapped for the  Rural Capacity Upgrade project. These contractors have successfully signed contracts with Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to carry out the work.

Crown Infrastructure Partners (formally Crown Fibre Holdings) works to implement the Government’s objectives in relation to improving the availability of and access to ultra-fast broadband, rural broadband and mobile voice and data coverage. In short, they are the government arm to ensure New Zealanders get connected.

Clark is optimistic everyone in the island nation would benefit from the project. He sees how essential the internet is to the lives of everyone. With these upgrades, rural businesses will have the tools to be more innovative and productive. Plus, it can also improve health and safety for New Zealanders and their families through remote health consultations, facilitate remote learning and help maintain social and family connections.

New Zealand is well aware of how much digital transformation can change lives. This new initiative to boost internet access all over the country is a telltale sign of its trust towards technology. The island nation may not be the biggest country in land area but its digitisation is well ahead of its times. Proof of this, it has launched a digital invoicing initiative, a technology unheard of in some areas of the planet.

It certainly wants the best for its people. Just recently, Aoteroa has opened its doors to ICT talent from all over. It knows the key to progress is with the right partners. As reported on OpenGov Asia, the nation has partnered with German researchers to move the needle when it comes to space exploration.


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