$1.5b enough for NZ broadband

Telcos, power companies and the like tried to pull a fast one when they claimed the New Zealand Government might need to up its NZ$1.5 billion budget for the Ultra Fast Broadband roll-out.

Telcos, power companies and the like tried to pull a fast one when they claimed the New Zealand Government might need to up its NZ$1.5 billion budget for the Ultra Fast Broadband roll-out.

The arguments stem from the ambitious proposals submitted by all and sundry, who seek to roll-out broadband faster than the government's proposed 10-year time frame, some in as little as three years.

Indeed, the government's Crown Fibre Holding Company, which will manage the government's $1.5 billion scheme was somewhat inundated with proposals.

In what was called a "scramble", 18 organisations submitted proposals when the deadline passed at the end of January, according to TVNZ.

Telecom New Zealand was in there, and an international investor, now confirmed as Canada's AxiaNetMedia, which is building a broadband network in Singapore.

One proposal by a local lines company promised rural Franklin, just south of Auckland, speeds of up to 1Tbit/s completed within three years.

It is heartening to see such great support for the New Zealand broadband program from such a diverse range of outfits. It highlights the popularity of the government's approach along with the importance the country's technical community sees in broadband.

Indeed, it is the very fact that there is so much support for the government's proposals and so many bidding for the work that shows the NZ$1.5bn budget won't rise.

The 33 proposals from the 18 companies provide both the government and end users with choice. Like in other spheres, such competition will drive down costs, increase quality and improve value.

And we must not also forget Kiwi ingenuity. Just this week, news surfaced that New Zealand developers were developing software that can help firms plan more efficient fibre roll-outs, promising savings of 5 to 10 per cent — something that holds promise for Australia's NBN project as well.

As Crown Fibre Holdings assesses the bids, it can pick out the best deals for the taxpayer as well as end users. A more rapid roll-out than currently intended may put pressure on prices, but the competitive element and technological developments will counter that — something I am sure business-minded ICT Minister Steven Joyce knows all too well.

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