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Government 'not nearly ambitious enough' for rural broadband

Federated Farmers believes the potential of rural broadband is being underplayed by today’s ‘final proposals’ for the Government’s $300 million rural broadband project.

‘’This is another positive step in the right direction, but we have already campaigned hard to lift Government’s sights, resulting in a lift in commitment from $48 million to $300million. The question rural New Zealand has before it is now, are you happy with a second rate service?” asked Federated Farmers telecommunications spokesperson, Donald Aubrey.

"With this approach, some 860,000 Kiwis in ‘rural’ New Zealand may eventually have the broadband speeds that consumers in Wellington currently 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. It’s a space Federated Farmers has invested much resource into and the Government is not ambitious enough about seeding the next agricultural revolution.

“Ultrafast Broadband from the farm is seeking a genuine paradigm shift socially, culturally and economically.

“The social, education and medical advances enabled by ultrafast broadband should be as available here as in the cities. Broadband enhances social connectedness while crushing the tyranny of distance.

“Our agricultural businesses produce two thirds of our country’s invaluable export dollars. When we say ‘rural’ we don’t just mean agriculture, but tourism and services that also demand enhanced broadband to flourish.

“This is also about revolutionising the supply chain to close the gap between farmers and end consumers. It’s about bringing the tangible worth of added value, back inside our farm gates and our communities. Broadband is the next big enabler for enhanced productivity and production.

“Right now, we can only look to emerging 3D technologies and telepresence to see how business models will radically change. Yet it’s also about tele-education and tele-health as well as research partnerships and the aggregation of productive, financial and other management data.

“The proposed speeds of up to 5Mbps are positive, but does that allow for streaming 3D images and telemetry to and from veterinary surgeons for example? Sony Pictures recently estimated speeds of 50-55Mbps are required for 3D with full high definition for both eyes.

“That’s a mere hint of what may be possible but we could easily be stuck in the slow lane. We also know these speeds are possible locally because they are happening in pockets right now. That’s the inspiration missing from today’s announcement.

“We have always said we are not quite sure the Government has got its broadband policy right but Federated Farmers wishes to make the best of it for our rural communities.

“In our view, the focus should have been on rural broadband first because that’s not just where the most need is, but is where the most benefit will come from the Government’s investment.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction towards enhancing rural broadband, but perhaps the Government needs to take a longer term view. 1.07 million Kiwis want to enjoy the same services and opportunities as our urban mates and that’s fibre from the farm,” Mr Aubrey concluded.