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New Zealand Government Completes Ultra-Fast Broadband Roll-Out

The government has completed rolling out the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project. Through the project, which is one of the country’s largest infrastructure deployment projects, over 1.8 million homes across 412 cities and towns have access to world-class connectivity. The project covers 87% of the population, according to the Minister for Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark.

The UFB programme was initially rolled out in larger cities and high-density areas. It was later expanded to cover smaller and more rural and remote towns, some of which have populations of fewer than 300 people. UFB along with other government connectivity programmes such as the Rural Broadband Initiative and Mobile Blackspot Fund have put the government on track to ensure 99.8% of the population has access to improved broadband by the end of 2023.

During the pandemic, fast, reliable connectivity was especially crucial as it enabled learning, earning, and socialising. It allowed people to check in with doctors, run businesses, and stay connected with friends and family. This is why the government believes in universalising connectivity. New Zealand ranks high on the world stage when it comes to access and uptake of digital connectivity, particularly the proportion of people accessing fibre.

Clark said that the UFB milestone would not have been possible without successful public and private partnerships. The government commended all the companies who have helped deploy UFB across the country over the past 12 years.

In November, the government launched the Remote Users Scheme to provide broadband and connect New Zealand’s most remote communities. Clark had announced the scheme, noting that it would equip as many remote households as possible with the connectivity infrastructure needed to access broadband services. As reported on OpenGov Asia, the Remote Users Scheme will help connect people to online health services and educational tools. Through Budget 2022, $15 million was allocated towards funding the scheme, as part of the broader $60 million rural connectivity package announced earlier in the year.

The Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP), which was established by the government, will administer the Remote Users Scheme and is calling for applications from potentially eligible households and communities. A request for proposal from Internet service providers will follow. It is expected that new broadband connectivity infrastructure for the eligible areas and households can begin being built in mid-2023.

More recently, the government announced that around 30,000 rural homes and communities will have access to faster and improved connectivity with an expansion of the Rural Capacity Upgrade programme. 21 new contracts were signed by Crown Infrastructure partners to accelerate upgrades to towers and broadband connections in areas with poor coverage.

This round of the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see many existing towers upgraded and new connections established in rural areas experiencing poor performance. Areas that will benefit from these improvements include, but are not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, the Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland, and Waikato.

The government has also released “Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa”, which sets out the high-level connectivity vision for New Zealand over the next decade. This includes the goal that all New Zealanders have access to high-speed connectivity networks, and that the country is in the top 20% of nations with respect to international connectivity measures.

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